Baptism is the rite by which new Christians are admitted to the Church. Water is poured over their heads three times, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, following the directive of Jesus in his farewell mission charge to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew:
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost
Carving on the side of the Font.
Baptism presupposes firm Christian conviction, and a solemn undertaking to live according to the way of the Gospel, following the example of Christ. The water of Baptism symbolises the creative, healing, and regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Paradoxically, the water also represents death. St Paul compares Baptism to dying, being buried, and rising again with and in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-4). In the earliest centuries of the Christian Church, this could be graphically illustrated and enacted. Most candidates for Baptism were adult converts, and they were often fully submerged in a bath or in a river, so that going down into the water represented death, and emerging from the water resurrection. While this imagery is vivid, Baptism does not depend on the symbolism being enacted each time, and most candidates are baptised in the Font, a much smaller vessel of water which stands prominently in the Church as a constant sign to us all of our Baptism.
The Paschal Candle, symbol of Christ's resurrection, lit as a sign of the
new life in Christ received by those baptised in Christ's name.
Most candidates for Baptism today are babies or young children. They are brought to the Church by Christian parents and godparents, who themselves have been baptised. The parents and godparents make the promises on behalf of the children, and in doing so affirm their own Christian commitment, and declare their intention of nurturing the children in the Christian faith and in the fellowship of the Church. The Church in turn undertakes to support the parents and godparents in their task, by prayer and by example. As the children grow up, the Sunday School is available to assist with their Christian nurture, and to introduce them to corporate worship in the company of other children.
The baptismal promises are not to be lightly undertaken, either by the parents or by the Some parents may accordingly feel unwilling or not ready to undertake the commitment. They may believe that their children should make their own choices when they reach adulthood, and be baptised at that stage if they so wish. Or they may feel that their own faith has not yet reached the certainty or the maturity necessary before they can commit themselves to raising their children as Christians. Parents in such a position are welcome to explore the issues with the Rector, and are encouraged to do so. If appropriate, they may choose to make an act of Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child in the first instance. They would still have the option of presenting their children for Baptism at a later stage, when they feel it appropriate.
Parents wishing to have their children baptised, or to discuss any questions that they may wish to explore before making up their minds, are invited to contact the Rector, who will discuss the promises and commitment with them, and will also be available with support and encouragement through the challenges of the ensuing years.