Baptism enquiries and preparation
What is baptism?
Baptism is about committing your life to Jesus as a Christian. It is about becoming a member of the Church family. It is about a fresh start in life through a symbolic washing with water.
Baptism was originally for adults, but it soon began to involve whole families. Christians knew that God was just as interested in children as in adults, so they wanted their children to have the sign of belonging too. When a child is baptised, the parents and Godparents make promises about Christian belief and commitment on behalf of the child. The promises are the same as those used at the baptism of an adult.
So, what is a Christian?
Being a Christian isn’t about being a certain sort of person (‘religious’ or ‘good enough’), it’s about being on a journey and being in a relationship. Jesus said that he came from God and that he was going back to God, and that he wants to take us with him. Because God made us in the first place, going towards him feels like coming home. That’s our destination - to be at home with God and to be made like Jesus.
Life’s a journey - not a destination
Being a Christian isn’t the destination - it’s just the start, the start of a journey back to God, who loves us completely. To be baptised is to make a decision to begin that journey. It may involve making significant changes to our lifestyle, how we make decisions and how we behave. It may affect our friendships and relationships. It means being concerned about things that God cares about, like environmental issues, poverty and injustice. It means accepting God’s challenge to keep on changing as the journey goes on. But in all that change there is also a sense of a fulfilled life, of ‘coming home’. And God always takes us as we are, and does not ask us to make any changes without helping us. This is the life that your child or Godchild is being ‘signed up’ for in baptism.
But you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, do you?
That depends on what you mean. You can certainly be a good person, even a religious person, without coming near a church. But that’s not what being a Christian actually means. It is possible to be a Christian without attending services (for instance, some people can’t get there every week because of illness or old age). But there’s a world of difference between not being able to come to church and choosing not to be involved. What really counts is not just coming to church on a Sunday, but being part of a church all the time - belonging to the church family. When you play a team game, like football or hockey, there are some things you can do on your own (like practising, keeping fit, and so on), but unless you are part of a team you miss the whole point. Following Jesus is not a game, of course, but God’s intention in sending Jesus was to form a ‘team’: groups of people who wanted to live with God at the centre of their lives. The church is trying to be that team - a living sign on earth of the way things are in God’s kingdom. That’s why baptism is about joining the church, as well as being about Christian beliefs.
Why is water used?
In baptism the water is used to symbolise washing - representing God’s forgiveness, washing away all that is selfish within us. This applies even to children, not because we believe that children are inherently evil, but as a reminder that we are all in need of God’s cleansing and forgiveness, because left to ourselves we grow up to go our own way and leave God out of our lives. The bible uses the word "repent" - it simply means "change" - a change of direction for our life, a changed way of seeing the world, a change of priorities, a change of behaviour and more.
Time for a change
Perhaps you never imagined that being a Christian involved all of this?
People at the time of Jesus were faced with the same kind of questions. Many were already ‘religious’. Others were certainly not. Lots were just ordinary people trying to be decent and do the right thing. All of them were faced with a challenge when they heard Jesus: to go on as before, or to change their way of seeing the world and their way of living in it. It was tempting for them, as it is for us, to think that all that is really needed is to decide to do better (like a New Year’s resolution). But trying to do better (whilst important) is not at the heart of being a Christian. Jesus didn’t call us to do better, but to admit our faults with honesty (and with apologies, where required!) and to receive God’s forgiveness so that our past doesn’t hold us back.
The role of parents and Godparents
Your role as a parent or Godparent is to help the child to grow up to belong to the church as well as to believe in God - and to show them the way by your teaching and your example. ‘Godparents’ get their name because they are meant to be people who know about God. That’s why the Church of England’s rules expect Godparents to be baptised and confirmed. In the baptism service you will be promising to help the child to grow in faith and, in due time, to be confirmed. Obviously, it’s harder to encourage the child to get confirmed if you’re not confirmed yourself.
What do I need to do now?
If you are interested in having a baptism, either for yourself or your child, at any of our churches, please get in touch with our Group Administrator on 01926 812383 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will ask you to fill in a form then arrange for you to attend a preparation class. Baptism services are usually held on Sunday afternoons, after the main service of the day in church.
The Church of England has a website with more information.