What is Baptism?
We are always excited to welcome children into the Church, but it is also important to recognise that with baptism comes a serious commitment from you and those helping you care for your child. We would love to stand alongside you and help you understand what baptism means for God and his Church. With that in mind, we ask you to please read the rest of this letter, discuss it between yourselves and then get back to us with what you would desire to do.
The first thing we need to consider is what is baptism?
Baptism is a public declaration for those who want to follow Jesus. Essentially, it’s an outward, visible and physical ceremony reflecting an inward, invisible and spiritual event. Baptism also happens to be a ritual Jesus himself told us to continue to remember that he is in the business of changing lives. (1 Corinthians 11:24, Matthew 28:16-20). You could say that baptism is the gateway into Jesus’ Church.
With that in mind if you do not live in Camden, while we acknowledge you might have a family connection to St John’s, we believe baptism is about connecting with the local Church. We would encourage you to contact your local Anglican Church and inquire about baptism there.
What does it symbolise?
Baptism is a ceremonial washing showing God has done the following things for us.
- Cleansed us from our rebellion and sin
- Given us new life by the Holy Spirit
- Come to dwell in our hearts guaranteeing God’s abiding presence through the Holy Spirit
Baptism is not something we do for God so that he blesses or protects us. It is a sign that God has already done everything necessary for our eternal salvation in Jesus. In that way, baptism is a sign we have received God’s gift of grace and eternal life. Ultimately, it’s a sign we have been united to Jesus through faith and that his death, burial and resurrection were for us.
We invite friends and family to witness the occasion because it is a watershed (pardon the pun…) moment in the believer’s life. It is a sign to the gathered crowd that Jesus has come to dwell in their hearts and, from this moment forward, will seek to honour and obey Jesus in all they think, say and do. In other words, they have become his disciple. They are dying in their old life (going under the water) and rising again to new life (as they come up again).
What am I promising to do?
The baptism itself is done after answering a series of questions which declare your intentions of living a new life following Jesus in front of gathered friends and family:
As you can see, the promises confirm you are a believer, a follower of Christ and a member of his church, believing in his promise found in his word, the Bible. They also confirm that from this, you intend to raise your child as one who believes these same promises. You intend to raise them as Christians who hold to the truth of Jesus, found in scripture. You also promise to live a life that rejects what the Bible calls sin and give your life over to God in every way.
Since baptism promises to raise your child to believe and follow Jesus and all that he teaches. We don’t baptise the children of people who are unmarried, as it is contrary to Jesus’ plan for our lives. If you would like to get married, we would love to talk to you.
What do these promises have to do with baptising my child?
Just years after Jesus’ earthly ministry, whole families of those who believed were being baptised, which we can safely assume included children and infants. When children come into a family, it is right for parents to claim that God’s promises of salvation also rest on their children – as was the case in the Old Testament.
At St John’s we love to baptise the infants of believing parents. Those parents who plan to raise their children as believers in Jesus. Normally this would mean praying for their children, talking with them about God, and bringing them to church or youth group so they can learn age-appropriate Bible stories. However, considering the significance of the promises being made, it doesn’t make any sense for us to baptise children of non-believing parents.
What about Godparents?
While Godparents aren’t mentioned in the Bible, there is a tradition of parents asking trusted friends to help them raise a child as a follower of Jesus. At the baptism, Godparents stand next to the parents and make the same promises as the parents of the child being baptised i.e. they are a follower of Jesus, they have repented of their sin, and they are a member of his church.
Are there any requirements for parents?
Since the promises are significant before we arrange a date for baptism, we require you to join one of our Christianity Explored courses, which outline the fundamentals of what following Jesus means. Once you have completed the course, let’s talk to see if you believe baptism is the best thing for you and your child.
This isn’t really what I had in mind…
If you don’t feel like baptism is right for you now, we understand and also have a Thanksgiving Service. While similar to baptism, in that we thank God for the birth of a new child and seek his blessing on the baby’s life, the promises made are more general in nature. You are still welcome to have godparents and we can conduct this service at church or even in your home.
If you would like to proceed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you some more information. We ask all those preparing for baptism to attend our baptism preparation classes which outline the fundamentals of what following Jesus is about, and some things you might want to consider as you raise your child as a follower of Jesus. From there, because we take baptism seriously, we would like to meet with you to get to know one another and talk about what you have learnt at these classes. Once you have completed the course, we can talk and see if you believe baptism is the best thing for you and your child.