What Happens at a Baptism (Christening)?
When you bring your child for baptism you and those you choose to be your child’s Godparents will be asked to declare publicly, on behalf of your child, that you believe in God and that you will bring your child up to know about Jesus and help them to explore what it means to have faith. This means giving them the ability and encouragement to make their own choices about the Christian faith as they grow up. You will be asked to answer, on your child's behalf, that you have decided to turn away from everything which is evil or sinful and instead to turn towards Christ.
The declarations made by you and the child's godparents will be made in front of your family and friends as well as members of the local Christian family – the Church - and those who share the Christian faith will promise to support you and pray for you and your child.
What does it all Mean?
A number of important symbols and actions will be used during the service itself, each of which has special meaning:
The sign of the Cross - the priest / minister will make the sign of the Cross on your child's forehead. This is like an invisible badge to show that Christians are united with Christ and must not be ashamed to stand up for their faith in him.
Anointing – Oil, which has blessed by the church for use at baptism will be used at the signing with the cross. This is a sign of God’s anointing with his Spirit and of God’s blessing of strength for the journey ahead.
The priest / minister says:
Christ claims you for his own. Receive the sign of the cross.
Do not be ashamed of Christ. You are his for ever.
Water - the priest / minister will pour water on your child's head. Water is a sign of washing and cleansing. In baptism it is a sign of being washed free from sin and beginning a new life with God. Water is a sign of life, but also a symbol of death. When we are baptized, it is as though our old life is buried in the waters and we are raised to new life with Christ.
The Welcome – those present (representing your family and the family of the church) will say some formal words of welcome to acknowledge that your child is recognised as a child of God and has joined the family of the Church.
Candles - Jesus is the Light of the World. A large candle will be lit in the church, and you will be given a lighted candle at the end of the service as a reminder of the light which has come into your child's life. It is up to you, the child's godparents and the church community to help your child to follow that way of life that reflects goodness and light and shares this light with others.
What is the role of Godparents?
Godparents make the same promises as parents. Godparents promise to pray and support the child and to help the parents to bring up the child in the Christian faith. It is an important and responsible role. It is traditional to have three Godparents - two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex – although you may choose a slightly different combination of individuals / couples. Godparents can be family members or friends. It is important that you choose people who will take an interest in your child's spiritual, as well as physical, wellbeing and who will pray for you and your child.
Godparents must already be Baptised or Christened in order to make the promises they are making for the child.