Baptism (sometimes known as ‘Christening’)
When a baby, a child, young person or adult come for baptism in the Christian Church something special happens. In fact, to be truthful, a number of things happen.
First of all there is preparation beforehand. For babies and young children the parents should have an understanding of not just what will happen at the time of the baptism but also what it is about. There are promises to be made. These promises focus on what it means to be a Christian and whether or not you actually believe the Christian faith. In the case of the young person or the adult then they would be the ones receiving the preparation.
Jesus was baptised. In his case he was an adult but we offer baptism to people of every age because no one is ever too old or too young to follow what he did. Water is essential in baptism. Normally water is poured over the head of the person being baptised. Three times this is done “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, signifying the way God comes to us.
Very often a cross is marked with holy oil on the forehead of the person being baptised. This is an ancient symbol ‘marking’ us as Christ’s with a symbol of his life, death and rising from death.
A lit candle is often also given to the person being baptised. This is a simple, but effective, reminder that we are to follow the light of Christ in the life we live.
Sometimes Godparents make the vows with the parents of the person being baptised or, and especially if the person being baptised is an adult, with the person being baptised. It is good, though not essential, to have Godparents (who are sometimes called sponsors). They also need to be able to make the promises and vows of baptism with the same good conscience as everyone else.
Baptisms normally take place in churches, though they don’t have to. For young people and adults sometimes a river, or the sea, or a local swimming pool might be chosen. Whatever the case baptism marks a new starting point for the person who is being baptised and it is the task of everyone around that person to support them in the new Christian life they are to live.