So what happens during the baptism service?
The vicar will make sure you know where to sit and when you need to move. Some parts of the service will be for everyone to join in with, some will be for you and the godparents. Part of the service will take place at the front of the church, then for the Baptism itself, parents and godparents, sometimes family and friends too, will usually be asked by the vicar to gather around the font. (The font is a large basin on a pedestal, containing the water for baptism). The vicar will ask the parents and godparents to make declarations on behalf of the child.
Making decisions and promises
When you bring your child for Baptism, you 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 follow Jesus. 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 the church congregation; the local Christian community will promise to support you and pray for you and your child.
Symbols and actions used during the service
A number of important symbols and actions will be used during the service itself:
The sign of the cross
The vicar will use special oil to 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.
The vicar says
- Christ claims you for his own.
- Receive the sign of his cross.
- Do not be ashamed to confess
- the faith of Christ crucified.
The vicar 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 (like drowning) and we are raised to new life with Christ.
The vicar says:
- May God, who has received you by baptism into his Church,
- pour upon you the riches of his grace,
- that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim
- people you may daily be renewed by his
- anointing Spirit, and come to the inheritance
- of the saints in glory.
- The church congregation will say some formal words of welcome to acknowledge that your child has joined the Church and to show how pleased they are to have you among them.
Jesus is the Light of the World: a large candle may be lit in the church and you may also 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.