Baptism of children
Hello, I’m Reverend Lesley, the Vicar of St Paul’s. You may have all sorts of questions about Christenings, so hopefully this page will answer some of those.
One of the first things to do is come along to the 10am church service so we at St Paul’s can meet your family. I realise it can be quite scary or nerve-wracking to come to church and meet the vicar! But, I wasn’t always a vicar, and wearing a little piece of white plastic in my shirt collar doesn’t mean that I don’t go through life without difficulties, anguish, and ‘tear your hair out’ problems. I just have Jesus to help me get through them.
It would be great if you and
your partner (if you have one) could come together with your child/children.
Don’t be frightened or worried as we are child friendly and have activities
available. I have no problem if babies or toddlers cry, and you must never be
embarrassed or apologetic if they do, because as a baby I can imagine that Jesus probably cried when his
mother Mary took him to the Synagogue. How amazing is that; that God sent his Son to live just like you; sharing human ups and downs, disappointments, laughter, family life, and suffering?
Baptism involves a commitment from you and your partner (if you have one). It isn’t something to which you just turn up on the day, have your child ‘done’, head off to a party, and then forget about God. In asking for Baptism for your child you are promising to God and before witnesses that you will bring your child up as a Christian in the worshipping community. So we do need to see you committed, as far as possible, in coming to church, and being part of that community, and obviously you can’t do this unless you know something about the Christian faith and are yourself committed to knowing more about Jesus and trying to follow him. After all, why would you want to bring your child up as a Christian if you yourself don’t want to try and live as a follower of Jesus? Don’t worry, this is not about expecting you to become a boring dull God-botherer! It’s about you getting to know how precious you and your child are to God, and how much God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.
We don’t book a date for the Baptism until the church family has had a chance to get to know you, and that you are aware of what you are committing to, which will include a time of preparation. And then we meet, and together with God we work out the best way forward. Think of it this way, (if it helps) ---- In a normal pregnancy a mum has 8-9 months (hopefully) to prepare for the physical birth of her child, and does everything she can (like not smoking or drinking, having good nutrition and regular scans/check-ups) to make sure that the baby will be born healthy. Baptism would be your child’s birth into the Christian faith, which St Paul's church takes very seriously, so we all need to prepare for it properly.
Together we come to an understanding of what God wants for you and your child and how we achieve that,
because there are wonderful alternatives should you or potential Godparents
feel you cannot make the vows with integrity, or your potential Godparents
can’t meet the requirements of Canon (Church) Law to be a Godparent. If a potential Godparent is not baptised we can still include them in the service and they can make promises as a "supporter" for your child. The alternative service (called
‘Thanksgiving for the gift of a child’) is very flexible, and includes welcoming
your child into the world and your family, giving thanks for your child, giving
them their name in a formal setting (this is not included in the Baptism
service); and seeking God’s blessing on your child and your family. There is no requirment for you or potential Godparents to be Baptised, and you do not have to make the solemn vows that you would have to at Baptism. You
and your friends/family can even say some words about how special your child
is, or perhaps read some special poetry that means something to you, even
something you have written yourself. And your child is given a Bible. It also
means that when you and potential Godparents are prepared and ready, you can
then proceed to Baptism. You may find this "Thanksgiving" service fulfils your desire to mark your child's entry into your family, without the necessity of having to make solemn vows to God, and that's fine. So many people don’t realise that they can have two
services. We can even combine a wedding with Thanksgiving or Baptism.
Potential Godparents must be baptised and should be confirmed – this is Canon (Church) Law. And we will need to see evidence of this -- a copy of the Baptism and Confirmation certificate. Some people do understandably lose these. In that case all they have to do is contact the church where they were baptised and confirmed and request a certificate copy of the relevant entry in the Baptism register. Try and think of it like this: you wouldn't ask someone to teach you how to drive, unless they knew how to do so themselves. Similarly, the role of a Godparent is to encourage their Godchild on the child’s journey as a Christian, by their own example of how to live as a follower of Christ, and to support their Godchild in prayer.
The last thing anyone wants is for people to make promises to God that they won’t be able to keep. After all I would imagine that like me, you have experienced how hurt you can be if someone breaks a promise made to you. Jesus knew what it was like to be let down and hurt by broken promises. So, God is hurt if we break our promises to Him.
Some of the things we will be looking at in the preparation sessions (one of which includes the eating of chocolate!) will be:
• why you would like child to be baptised
• what is baptism, and what it isn’t
• who can be a Godparent, and the role they fulfil.
• who Jesus is, and how he fits into your family’s life
• what does being a Christian mean?
• the promises you make at Baptism, and how will you keep them.
• going through the elements of the service and what they mean.
We then can decide on a date for the Baptism. We do it this way, because in the past sadly some folk ask for a date for Baptism and promise to come to the preparation course after the Baptism, and then don’t turn up.
There is no charge for the service. And we give a certificate of Baptism which will presented in a Sunday 10am service following the date of the Baptism.
I know this may seem quite daunting, and you may be disappointed by some of what you’ve read, however I hope you will also be reassured that St Paul’s takes the preparation of parents of infant baptism candidates very seriously, which is why I invest a lot of time in you and your child.
I look forward to meeting you and your family in church, and please be assured we will be praying for you and your family as you consider taking this important step in your family’s life.