It may be easiest first of all to explain what baptism is not:
Baptism, sometimes called Christening, is a specifically Christian "rite of initiation". In other words, through our Baptism we receive God's blessing and are welcomed into the world-wide family of God's Church, onto a life-long journey of faith, commitment and loving relationship; and that is what we celebrate during the service. It is the first step of faith in response to God's love, marking the beginning of a journey with God that continues for the rest of our lives.
Baptism is a sign, first of all, of God's love and commitment to his people. The Bible teaches that, despite our rejection of God, God still loves us. He's sent his son Jesus into the world to be our Saviour, and longs to bring his life and healing to every single person.
Baptism is also a sign of our commitment to God. In the service we declare that we turn to Christ - an indication that we are willing to centre our lives on Jesus, following his teaching and example.
Baptism is also the way in which a person formally becomes a member of the Christian church. That's why baptism ideally takes place within a normal church service. It's also why participants affirm that they share the church's faith in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
When an adult is baptised they make these declarations for themselves. A young child is obviously unable to do this, so the affirmations are made on their behalf by the parents and Godparents. Parents and Godparents also promise that they will actively seek to pass on the Christian faith to the child - both by their own example, and by regular participation in the life and worship of the local church.
Bringing a child for baptism therefore represents a definite commitment to Christ and to the local church. We believe that these promises should not be made lightly, and although we want to encourage people to be baptised, we want to make sure that parents and Godparents understand that baptism is much more than just a matter of "getting the baby done".
We are aware that sometimes there is strong pressure from grandparents, or other family members, to have a child baptised, but would encourage parents who aren't ready to make these strong commitments to say "no". After all, if promises are made with no real intention of keeping them, it will be setting children a pretty poor example for the future.
Parents do not have to be baptised in order to bring a child for baptism. However, it does seem inconsistent for parents to make promises on behalf of their child, when they have not made them for themselves first! We therefore encourage all parents, who have not already been baptised, to consider being baptised at the same time as their child.
Christian teaching is clear that marriage provides the only appropriate place for sexual relations, and by far the best environment for bringing up children. As a church we believe that there is a real inconsistency in making the public declaration of Christian faith in baptism, yet being unwilling to live by the clear teaching of the bible in these important matters. Whilst we do not refuse applications for baptism from unmarried parents, we would strongly encourage any unmarried couples to consider marriage - both for your own security and for your children's well-being. This step, we believe, will be far more significant to your children than a baptism.
The normal recommendation is to have 3 Godparents - 2 of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. This is not a hard and fast rule, but there is a lot of common sense in it. We recognize that there are all sorts of personal considerations about who to choose - you may already have family and friends in mind. However, we would encourage you to also think through the spiritual dimension to the role. Godparents are expected to make a very definite declaration of their own Christian faith, and to promise to help the child to grow up as a member of the church too. It is a minimum requirement that Godparents must have been baptised themselves. Godparents are encouraged to attend the Baptism Preparation sessions if they are able to.
Yes there is! Our experience is that many people would like some kind of service in church to say "thank you" to God for their child, with family and friends present, but without having to make promises or declare a personal commitment to the Christian faith. The Thanksgiving service (see below) provides for just this need, and we would be very happy to explain more about how this works if you're interested...
The Service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child offers you, your family and friends an opportunity to give thanks for the birth (or adoption) of a child and to join together to celebrate and pray for family life. We offer this service to everyone who asks as an expression of God's unconditional love for you and your child. You don't have to say anything about what you believe; you don't have to promise anything; this service is about thanksgiving and celebration.
In the Service of Thanksgiving we:
This service also enables you to recognise the role of friends in your child's life and for them to stand at the front of church with you as Supporting Friends.