One of the great joys in life is the arrival of a new baby, either through birth or adoption. Most of us then want to gather our family and friends around to welcome the new baby. We all want to do the very best for our new baby and we want them to know that they are loved and belong.
Baptism is for many a great way to capture all of these feelings and desires. The Church has a passion to help people, especially little children, know they are loved by God. Baptism gives a depth to belonging that goes way beyond the immediate family to the whole people of God. As a celebration, baptism immerses us in the feasting of saints going back for millennia and looking forward to the great banquet of all God’s people.
Here in the Anglican Parish of Waterloo Bay we like to have four ‘workshops’ with people bringing their little ones for baptism. These workshops are designed to help us get to know the family and for the family to get to know some members of the local Church. We explore together the belief that God loves your little ones so much more than you can imagine. Ironically, even baptism won’t make God love them more. We understand baptism to bring us into the whole people of God and not merely the Anglican Church. We also reflect on the call to repentance which is central to Christian Baptism. What does it mean to say yes to Jesus and no to evil? We discuss the idea of the Church as one big family. How do we fit in to this amazing family? We also endeavour to give folk a clear and simple summary of the Gospel. God loves us, desires freedom and abundant life for us, gives us courage and forgives even profound “unforgivable” sins. With all of this comes and invitation to the whole family to join in the life of the church and its mission.
We prefer to have baptism in the context of our normal worship so that the whole congregation can welcome the new member. Unfortunately our Church buildings are quite small and this is not always feasible. When that is the case we encourage members of the Church to come to the baptism.
We also encourage people to come along and participate in the life of the Church, its worship and fellowship. For those that are new to faith or still unsure about Christian belief we encourage them to come to an Alpha course.
It is a joy to be invited to be a godparent and the rewards of taking on this responsibility are great. We rejoice as we see answer to prayer as godchildren grow in faith and maturity. We can deepen our fellowship with the child’s parents as together we watch the progress of the child.
Being a conscientious godparent can help us to grow our own relationship with Jesus which in itself is a great joy. The next great joy to knowing Christ ourselves is helping someone else to come to know Jesus.
The Role of a Godparent
Baptism involves parents and godparents pledging to bring up the child in the Christian faith. This includes nurturing the child so that in due course they come to know Jesus and accept Christ personally for themselves.
Some practical things that godparents can do are:
- Pray regularly for the child
- Check that the child has a Bible in modern language.
- Encourage parents to pray daily with the child, to bring the child to worship and Sunday School.
- Supply Christian stories and DVDs at appropriate age levels for the child.
- As the child grows to become a young adult, encourage him/her to think seriously about the Christian faith and commitment.
Some people come with many of the same feelings and desires of those bring children for baptism but feel they are not ready to make the promises included in the baptism service. A lovely alternative is to celebrate the life of the child with a Naming Ceremony (Thanksgiving for a Child).
In this simple service we give thanks to God for the life of the child and ask God’s continued blessing on the whole family. The family have an opportunity to express something of their awe and wonder at the birth of the child. They also gather family and friends together for a celebration to welcome the new member.
Originally as people came to believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ they were baptised. Hence the vast majority of people baptised in the first few centuries of the Church were adults. Once again people are coming to faith in Jesus in adulthood. Their parents were not Christians and so they were never baptised as children or perhaps their parents made a decision to let them make up their own mind later in life.
It is a great joy to encourage new Christians to be baptised. Before baptism they are encouraged to participate in an Alpha course or another similar introduction to the Christian faith. We also seek mentors for them to help prepare them for the great day of their baptism and beyond. Both in the Alpha course and with their mentors, new Christians are encouraged to ask questions, explore the faith and reflect on their experiences.
Adult baptism is almost always done during the Sunday worship so that the whole congregation can receive and welcome the new member of the Church.