In the New Testament of the Bible – the part written after Jesus’ time on earth – we read how people came to faith and were baptised to symbolise their new life as followers of Christ. All four gospels tell us Jesus himself was baptised in the River Jordan and the spirit of God descended on him like a dove and a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
In baptism a person becomes part of the family of God, adopted into the family of Christ. Before fonts were used for baptisms the person would be dipped into a river, going under the water completely before being raised out of the river. In this way, baptism mirrored the death and resurrection of Christ.
Since the very earliest days of the Church, parents have brought their infants to be baptised in a ceremony that helps them to express their love for their child and celebrate the gift of life, and which symbolises the beginning of the child’s journey of faith and their becoming part of the Body of Christ – the worldwide Christian church.
Baptism (which is sometimes referred to as 'Christening') represents a commitment on the part of the parents and godparents to bring their children up within a Christian family, to teach them about their faith and to come to church regularly as a family. Some parents may not wish to make this commitment at this stage in a child’s life, and so many churches also offer a service of thanksgiving following the birth of a child. You can find out more about a thanksgiving service on the Church of England website.
If you would like to consider baptism or a service of thanksgiving for your child please contact your local vicar. Find your local parish church here.
Adult baptism has always been an important part of the life of the Church as new believers publicly declare their faith in God and are symbolically joined with Christ and his death and resurrection. The baptism usually takes place after a time of preparation during which the adult is taught the basics of the Christian faith and learns what it is to live as a follower of Christ.
In the early Church the baptism was always carried out by a Bishop and was followed immediately by being anointed with oil and the taking of communion.
As the Church grew it became impossible for a Bishop to carry out every baptism and the service of initiation split into two parts. The second part of this service forms the basis of our confirmation service. However, when an adult is being baptised it is still usual for the baptism, confirmation and the first communion to take place in one service.