Most churches of the world baptise young children as a sign that they are being brought up as Christians from their very first days. Some churches (such as Baptist churches) welcome children into the world with a service that thanks God for the new life, but then save baptism until a man or woman is adult and has made a thought-through choice to follow Jesus.
Christening and baptism mean more or less the same thing. When an infant is baptised the parents make serious vows. They promise to follow and worship Jesus themselves, and to bring the child up to do the same. Their prayer and hope is that, as an adult, they will have helped the child to a point at which following Jesus is the natural choice to make for a lifetime. Godparents are supportive friends whose Christian faith makes them ideal to pray for the child and teach him or her about following Jesus. They make the vows alongside parents.
If you have recently had a baby, it is best to talk first to the leader, minister or priest at your local church about having him or her baptised. If the minister does not know you very well, he or she will want to have a conversation with you about the promises you make during the service. If you do not know much about the Christian faith, he or she will suggest that you first consider what it means for you to follow Jesus yourself so that you know the best way to fulfil the vows. Different churches approach this in different ways – some suggest worshipping regularly with the congregation or going on a course so that you are well prepared to give your child the best start as a Christian.
After talking with the leader of the church you may decide to have the baby baptised, which usually takes place during a church’s main Sunday service and involves pouring water over the baby. Or you may decide to have a Service of Thanksgiving, which is equally joyful, but does not involve such solemn vows. It may even be that you decide to take following Jesus seriously yourself for the first time, which will make the promises you make for your whole family very special.
The water that is used in baptism has two meanings. It is a sign of sin being washed away for a clean start with God. And it is a sign of death, with the old life drowned and the new life rising to start again with God. From the very first days of Christianity it has been used to welcome a new believer into the church.
There is no charge for a baptism service. If you would like to know where your nearest church is, the Christian Enquiry Agency will find it for you if you click ‘Find out more’.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’
Where to find it:
About these words:
Jesus did not baptise anyone, although he himself was baptised and told his followers to do so. However, these words show the great love he had for children.
And they said…
The vows made by parents and godparents in a Church of England service (Common Worship):
Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.
From the baptism service of the Roman Catholic Church:
Dear parents and godparents: You have come here to present this child for baptism. By water and the Holy Spirit he (she) is to receive the gift of new life from God, who is love. On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring him (her) up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life which God gives him (her) is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in his (her) heart. If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism.
David Beckham, former captain of the England football team:
I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don’t know into what religion yet.