Holy Baptism is a sacrament of belonging
It marks a significant moment, both in the life of the candidate, and in the life of the Church community, family and friends. It is a celebration of a new beginning in becoming a member of Christ's body the church. Baptism immerses us in the new life given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. When we come for baptism we are saying "yes" to God's love and desire for us to belong to the community of God's people. We are baptised into membership of the universal Christian church, not merely as members of a particular denomination or parish.
Christian parents bring their children for baptism because they want their child to be part of the community of faith. Parents and Godparents are Sponsors who make promises on behalf of the children they bring for baptism. They also take on the responsibility of raising their children as active members of the Church community. In the Christian life we are not alone. God provides us companions on the way and we share our faith and our struggles with the community of the Church. In baptism, the Church says "yes" to you. Welcome!
Before taking any significant step in life, it is appropriate to prepare for it. The same is true in beginning the Christian life with baptism.
When we bring children to be baptised, the parents and godparents need to prepare for their new responsibilities. In baptismal preparation we seek to explore our faith and to understand the promises being made at baptism. At St Thomas baptismal preparation is arranged before the date of each baptism through making an appointment with the Vicar.
Parents and Godparents (Sponsors)
In bringing a child to be baptised in the Church we seek to give your child something of value which we already have: active membership of the Church and the joy of the Christian life. Children are baptised in response to the faith of their parents who, together with the Godparents, make the Baptismal Promises on behalf of the child. Godparents have an important part to play in the Christian life and nurture of their godchild.
They should be chosen with great care. Godparents do not need to be Anglican, but they must be baptised themselves and should be practicing Christians who are worshiping members of a church community.
The Promises in Baptism
In the baptism service we make several promises to God and God's Church. You will be asked:
Do you affirm the faith of the Christian Church?
We believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Do you turn to Christ? I turn to Christ.
Do you repent of your sins? I repent of my sins
Do you reject selfish living, and all that is false and unjust? I reject them all
Do you renounce Satan and all evil? I renounce all that is evil
Will you each, by God's grace, strive to live as a disciple of Christ,loving God with your whole heart, and your neighbour as yourself,until your life's end? I will, with God's help.
The Promises - What do they mean?
The first promise the parents and godparents of the child make is to encourage the child in the life and faith of the Christian community through their prayers and example and their love and friendship. Children learn by observing, listening, imitating and being encouraged to think and experience things for themselves. Raising children and nurturing them into adulthood is no easy task. They need the love, care, nourishment and support of a community of people. As the story of your family becomes your child’s story, so too will the Christian faith story become an integral source of life for your child. A sense of belonging to a community that values and treasures each member is one of the greatest gifts your child can receive.
As sponsors for your child you will be asked to affirm or promise four things: that you turn to Christ, that you repent of your sins, that you reject selfish living and all that is false and unjust, and that you renounce Satan and all evil.
Do you turn to Christ?
This means do you put your trust in the love of Christ and seek to live your life following his teaching and example.
Do you repent of your sins?
To repent means to turn away from, that is, do you choose to turn away from all that separates us from God and from each other. Do you recognize your own failings and seek forgiveness for the hurt and harm you are responsible for in your life? Do you seek to be compassionate and forgiving of others?
Do you reject selfish living, and all that is false and unjust?
The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to turn away from behaviour that is destructive, immoral, unethical, all that separates us from God and from each other.
Do you renounce Satan and all evil?
In Jesus we have life, hope, wholeness and love. Giving ourselves over to evil brings death hopelessness and despair. As a parent or godparent responsible for raising this child, surely you would want to give them the gifts of love, hope and life. In short, these promises declare that you will seek to be a loving, mature and faithful model for your child. With God’s help you will strive to give them a vision and a hope of the wonderful person they may become. In other words, we promise to be active members of the worshiping community, seeking to strengthen our faith by being active members of the body of Christ, and seeking to bring God’s love into the world through our daily lives. If you feel that you are unable to make this commitment at the present time, then it may be best to postpone the baptism. In this case we encourage you to discuss this with the Vicar.
Symbols used in the Baptism Service
This is an element essential to all life; it is a symbol of the life-giving nature of the Holy Spirit, of cleansing and refreshment.In the Sacrament of Baptism it symbolizes the washing away of sin and the beginning of a new life in Christ.
The Paschal (Easter) candle will be alight throughout the service as a symbol of the light of Christ. Each baptismal candidate will be given their own candle to take home and keep as a reminder of their baptism. This may be lit at birthdays and other special occasions as a reminder of Christ’s loving presence in their lives.
In the biblical tradition oil is used for the anointing of kings and priests as a symbol of God’s hand upon their lives. In the Sacrament of Baptism it is symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, a mark of belonging to God.
Baptism of Adults
Although most of the above implies that baptism is for children, we often baptise adults. Preparation in this case is more intense because we are preparing the individual for the Christian life, where for baptism of children we begin with faithful parents who will spend a number of years nurturing their children in the Christian faith. For more information about baptism of adults, please contact the Vicar.
Often we are asked what the fee is for baptism. As a sacrament of commitment to God and membership in the church, there is no fee for baptism at St Thomas. We do encourage all members to make responsible Christian stewardship, which includes support for the church, a regular part of baptismal commitment and life.
Dates for Baptism
Baptism is a sacrament that involves the whole Christian community. Therefore it takes place at the baptismal font and is ordinarily celebrated during one of the parish’s Sunday services.
Other arrangements may be possible following discussion with the Vicar.
At St Thomas baptisms are not ordinarily celebrated during Advent (the four weeks prior to Christmas) and Lent (the six weeks prior to Easter).
Further information is available at the Church Of England website