August 2010 Letter

August Letter 

Baptism

 

A couple of months ago, I  wrote my letter on the subject of Church Weddings, and was amazed at the amount of response it received, confirming that there was a lot people didn’t know or felt unsure about on that important topic.  If you missed that article, I am making it available as a leaflet in our churches, or available from me by post or email.

 

So this month, I want to write about another important occasion in our Christian lives – Baptism or Christening.  (The two words mean exactly the same thing.)

 

Baptism can take place at any point in someone’s life – from newly born to point of death and at all times in between!  It is not just a celebration for both the Church and the family but a ‘sacrament’ – a word which is officially defined as ‘the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’.  That means that we believe that when a person is baptised, something very special happens between them and God, and that they become a member of the spiritual family of God in a new and special way.

 

When we baptise adults or older children, we ask them to affirm their belief themselves.  If they are too young for this, their parents and godparents answer for them, making promises that they will confirm later when they come for Confirmation.  Godparents need to have been baptised themselves, but there is no rule about whether parents have to be baptised.  Nor does it matter whether or not the parents are married – baptism is about the child, not the parents, and you will be just as welcome whatever your situation.  That being said, I have performed baptisms of babies where a parent or Godparent was baptised themselves in the same service, making it a double celebration!

 

There is no charge for a baptism.  We are welcoming a new member of God’s family, and that is always free.  If you would like to give a thanksgiving donation towards the church, that is very appropriate and will help to ensure that our beautiful churches are still open for the baptism of your children’s children, but that is entirely up to you and nobody needs to know whether or not a donation has been made.  If you are a tax payer, you can have the extra pleasure of putting any donation in a ‘gift aid’ envelope available at the church and redirecting some of the money that the tax man would otherwise have claimed!

 

Because it is a very special beginning to someone’s life of faith, whatever their age, baptisms are now normally included as part of one of the Sunday services at your local church.  This may be a little confusing for older members of the family who remember Christenings as private family ceremonies in the past.  But it is a reflection of the importance of Baptism that we celebrate it as the whole family of the church.  Like a wedding, part of its special character is that it is a public occasion not just a private one.  All churches organise some kind of ‘Baptism preparation’ which will help you to understand the deeper meaning of the service and the promises, as well as what to expect during the service itself.  In this group of churches, the vicar will visit you at home for this, which also gives you a chance to get to know  me and for me to meet the family.

 

The normal way of arranging a baptism is to speak to the vicar of your local church by phone or email or after a service.  It is helpful and avoids disappointment if you do this before having fixed on a date, as there may well be certain dates which can’t easily be arranged.  In this group of churches, not all churches have a service every Sunday, and of course with one vicar looking after several churches, arrangements can be quite complicated!

 

Quite often, particularly with village churches, you may have connections with a church which is not the local church where you currently live, and wish the baptism to happen there; for instance because you married there, or because your parents still live there.  This is usually fine, but out of courtesy, we would need to speak to your local vicar to arrange this.  This is not just politeness but also to make sure that you do not miss out on news of local church Toddler Groups, Family Services etc which you might like to know about. 

 

Baptism can only happen once in a person’s life, but sometimes we may want to celebrate it more than once, or in different ways.  If your child was baptised in hospital, because of illness or a difficult birth, you can still come to church for a celebration when the danger is passed.  Or if a baptism has taken place at a distance but you want to celebrate locally with relatives who couldn’t travel, that can also be arranged.  If you prefer to wait until your children are older and can make the promises for themselves, you could still have a Thanksgiving service for them now.   And sometimes adults who were baptised as babies but later come to a fuller understanding of their faith want to mark that  new understanding – either by confirmation, if they are not already confirmed, or by the renewal of their baptismal vows.

 

If you have any other questions, do contact me and ask.

 

Rev’d Karen Spray 01392 877400


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