I. What is Christian Baptism?
a) Baptism is a
"an outward and
visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace"
Why do we need an
outward sign? Because we have bodies. Everything we do has an outward
and sensible part to it. When we marry we have a wedding, when we have
a birthday we have a party with presents. We need an outward sign to
let us see what is happening within.
In Baptism water is
the outward sign. In our daily lives we use water for washing and to
drink to sustain our physical life. In Baptism the child is inwardly
cleansed and given new life in the Spirit from above.
(see John 3:1-7 and John 4:7-15)
"How can water do
such great things?
Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does
these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the
water…With the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving
water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy
Spirit." (Luther's Catechism - see Titus 3:4-8a)
b) Baptism is
commanded by Christ (see Mt
28:19-20: Mk 16:15-16)
We baptize out of
loving obedience to Jesus Christ.
is a response to original sin
What are the needs
of a baby?
A baby's natural needs are for love, stability, food,
warmth. At some point a baby starts to show the need for moral support
and training. Even babies start to show the human desire to be the boss
of their world and resist any attempt to rule over them.
What about the
needs of small children?
humans can desire more than is naturally necessary for them. Also,
unlike animals, humans do not grow by instinct alone - their conscience
and their minds need training by parents and others.
Small children learn language from others, not
instinctively. This is because they are created in the image of God and
they have more than just natural selves - they have an in-born sense of
justice and love and meaning.
How is this trained? It is trained by the
consistency of their parents' standards of right and wrong. This
in-born human rational nature does not naturally have a real
relationship with God, even though human beings were created to have a
relationship with God (see the story of the Garden of Eden - Genesis
3). In fact there is the opposite tendency in children. They want to
be their own bosses.
We need to teach
children to live beyond self-gratification. They will see that in our
example of self-giving. We also have to teach them to grow up and learn
a relationship with God.
Children can't have
this relationship naturally. It is only possible if God helps both them
d) Baptism is a
"means of grace" that Jesus gives to the child making possible a life
reconciled with God
“Grace” is undeserved favour. God gives himself as a
gift. This gift is the Holy Spirit, making what Christ has done real
for the child's life.
e) Baptism is a
profession of faith
Baptism makes us members of Christ's church - not
just members of a community but members of His body.
f) Why are
God's grace is an
undeserved gift in the first place. If the parents have faith, we can
count on the child growing into it as he or she develops - if we ask him
God will give it.
A personal decision
will be necessary later in the child’s life but that doesn't keep the
new life of faith from being present right from the earliest days.
As parents we decide what form the child's faith will
take just the way we decide what kind of education they are going to get
and what moral standards they will follow. It doesn't make any sense to
"wait until the child is old enough to decide".
Baptism Service (BCP pp.522-543)
Let us see how this teaching presented above is there
in the baptism service:
p. 523 "God willeth all men to be saved from the
fault and corruption of the nature which they inherit"
We do not naturally come to a good relationship with
p. 523 "Receive him, O Lord, as thou hast promised
by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask and ye shall have; seek, and ye
shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"
God is generous when we ask him for his gifts.
p. 524 The Baptism Gospel "Be ye, therefore,
assured that he will likewise favourably receive this present child;
that he will embrace him with the arms of his mercy; that he will
give unto him the blessing of eternal life, and will make him
partaker of his everlasting kingdom."
Jesus shows how he is willing to receive the child as
p. 525 "We give thee humble thanks that thou hast
called us to the knowledge of thy grace, and faith in thee…"
The faith that we have in the name of the child is
faith in what God has done for us in Christ.
The Promises of Sponsors
We make these promises because we intend to raise the
child this way.
p. 525 "Do you, in the name of this child,
renounce the devil and all his works..."
This part of the promise refers to renouncing all
p. 525 "...the vain pomp and glory of the world,
with all covetous desires of the same..."
This is about too great a desire for popularity,
money, possessions, success.
These are good things but they are also common
reasons why people go wrong.
p. 526 "...the sinful desires of the flesh..."
This is too much indulgence of the appetites - for
food, alcohol, sex, comfort, uncontrolled anger.
p. 526 The Apostle's Creed
This is the basic statement of Christian belief
It is divided into three parts – the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirit brings.
(We briefly consider each statement in the creed.)
Parents/godparents will be asked if they believe
p. 527 "Will you pray for this child..."
To raise children as Christians takes prayer.
(section from Video on prayer)
p. 527 "Grant that whosoever is here dedicated to
thee by our office and ministry may also be endued with heavenly
Just as we prayed for deliverance from all the ways
the child could go wrong we pray for the good qualities of a Christian -
"faith, hope, love, humility, wisdom".
p. 528 The Baptism "Grant that this child...may
receive the fulness of thy grace..."
Baptism is firstly about the grace of God towards the
not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to
fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the devil..."
Baptism is also about what allegiance we plan for the
child – an allegiance to Christ.
The Duties of Parents and Sponsors
p. 530 - to teach the child what it means to be
- to bring the child up to lead the Christian
to bring the child to Christian worship
- to bring the child to be confirmed - to make
his or her own decision
to bring the child to Holy Communion after
confirmation or other
Up Children in the Faith
Vine and the Trellis - Understanding Spiritual Growth
One of the most
helpful pictures I know of the growth of children in faith was given by
St. Augustine. He describes the soul of a child as being like a vine
growing. God gives the growth to the vine. But a cultivated vine needs
a trellis to grow up on if it is not to grow wild
along the ground. For a child, the trellis is the structures and
supports of family and community life.
Both the growth of
the child and the structures that are provided help the heart and mind
to grow. Early in childhood the baby shows evidence of a will that is
not just for what is naturally needed – it also shows a need for
control. This self will is not just good but is also potentially bad.
The "trellis" parents
provide includes all the things we surround the child with to train
their mind and will in the right direction. For example, the child has
the capacity to learn language, but children raised by animals don't
learn language. The child's mind needs to be presented with words for
its language skills to grow. The child's mind is like the vine and the
words are like the trellis.
Language is the key
to entering a world where there are many desires that are not possible
in the natural world such as ambition or the love of money. It is a
world of the mind but often it is not a reasonable world.
how the adults in his early years were not always the best examples to
him. He saw that his own teachers were sometimes just as competitive and
jealous of each other as children in the schoolyard. He was given
excessive disciple for playing games when he was supposed to be
studying. He remembers how his parents would laugh when he told them.
But they wouldn't
have laughed if a punishment as serious relative to their age had been
given to them.
When parents and
educators are unfair or childish, children are not trained up but a
stumbling block is put in front of them.
The way people
treated Augustine was often unreasonable. Nevertheless some sort of
discipline was necessary. Children naturally want to escape the world
of responsibility for the sake of childish fun. Fun is a good and
necessary part of the life of children. But children also need to be
led to take on more and more of the responsibilities of the adult world
as they grow. They need to know healthy limits to their freedom so they
can flourish. This is the purpose of education - the "trellis" of
training for the developing mind and will.
education the picture of the vine and trellis still applies. We think
that it is something mysterious because God is involved but it is still
a matter of putting the structures and supports there so the child can
learn about God. Some of the key things are:
- Prayer – before meals take
time to give thanks, before bedtime and at other times pray with your
children. When children learn to fold their hands and bow their heads
when they pray, they learn to look for God humbly and within. Get your
child into the habit;
- Bible stories - make use of
children's Bibles that are in a language that the child can learn best
about God for their age, read to your child;
- Taking part in worship - What
an advantage it is for children in attending church if they have the
priorities of the parents -
These are the major influence when children set their own priorities.
How much weight is put on money, family, acts of charity? Is church
attendance a priority for the parents?
All these influences
are like the trellis which trains the child to do the things which are
part of knowing and loving God.
When the church says
this, it sounds like it is just trying to boost its own membership. But
what spiritual life do we imagine our children are going to have if they
have no Bible stories, if they never worship or pray, if their parents
never make spiritual life a priority? They will still have the capacity
but they will be like vines growing along the ground – the fruit of
their lives will more easily be spoiled by the spiritual and physical
dangers present in this world.
Parents are almost
"standing in for God" during childhood. The practices and beliefs of
parents are given directly to the child by their words, their teaching
and their example.
Adolescence is a time
when youth begin to assert their independence. Teenagers need to start
making their lives their own. For faith this means that the teenager
has to establish his or her own relationship with God.
To use the vine and
trellis picture, the vine is now growing to a new height. Now the
teenager has to own the structures and supports given by others
for his or her spiritual life. Confirmation is designed to give
the adolescent the chance to do this and also the opportunity to be
strengthened by grace.
Youth groups and
other fellowship with Christians also helps this to happen.
It may be that the
religious life of the teenager takes a different form than what the
parents are comfortable with. Remember when Jesus was a young teen
brought to Jerusalem, he stayed behind to teach in the Temple and his
parents were frantic (Luke 2:41-51). While this may seem like
disobedience, it was Jesus being perfectly obedient to his heavenly
Adolescence is a
risky time of life and this is true religiously as well but it is
important that there be growth at this stage.
IV. Choosing Godparents
Normally it is
expected that there will be three godparents chosen by the parents - two
women and one man if the child is a girl; two men and one woman if the
child is a boy.
spiritual parents for the child. They are to help to bring the child to
a living faith in Jesus Christ.
Choose people who
- help teach the child the Christian faith (including
the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles' Creed);
- pray for the child as he or she grows;
- be a model of Christian love in their lives; and
- regularly attend Church.
Godparents must be
baptized and they must be able to say the promises and truly believe
them. Normally this means that they are also confirmed.
V. Introducing Our Church
a) It is Anglican:
We are a church based on the Bible.
We are a “catholic” church - "according to the whole"
– we hold to what was believed at all times and places in the Church.
Anglicans don't think they are the only true
Christians but part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We are a church of the Reformation that made less
radical reforms to the medieval church of the West than some others.
It is a church with Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
The teaching of our Church is found in the Prayer
Book (in the prayers, in the services of Baptism, Holy Communion,
Marriage and Ordination, and in the 39 Articles).
(see Teaching and
Links pages for background on these topics)
b) Service times at our church: see
c) How our church is governed: see
d) How our church is paid for: see Stewardship
e) Ministries for children and youth in our church:
f) Ministries for adults and parents at our church:
VI. Family Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy
will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily
bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass
against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the
power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Grace at Meals
FOR what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
FOR these and all his many mercies, God’s holy Name be blessed and
praised; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
BLESS, O Lord, this food to our use, and consecrate us to thy service,
and make us ever mindful of the needs of others; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.
PRAISE God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
For the Family
MERCIFUL Saviour, who did love
Martha and Mary and Lazarus, hallowing their home with your sacred
presence: Bless our home, that your love may rest upon us, and that
your presence may be with us. May we all grow in grace and in the
knowledge of you, our Lord and Saviour. Teach us to love one another as
you have given commandment. Help us to bear one another’s burdens and
so fulfil your law, O blessed Jesus, who with the Father and the Holy
Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for evermore. Amen.
For Relatives and Friends
LOVING Father, we commend to your gracious keeping all who are near and
dear to us. Have mercy upon any who are sick, and comfort those who are
in pain, anxiety, or sorrow. Awaken all who are careless about eternal
things. Bless those who are young and in health, that they may give the
days of their strength unto you. Comfort the aged and infirm, that your
peace may rest upon them. Hallow the ties of kindred, that we may help,
and not hinder, one another in all such good works as you have prepared
for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O LORD Jesus Christ,
who did take little children into your arms, and bless them: Bless, we
beseech you, the children of this family; grant that they may grow up in
your fear and love; give unto them day by day your strength and
guidance, that so they may continue in your love and service unto their
lives’ end. Grant this, O blessed Saviour, for your own Name’s sake.
For a Birthday
LORD our heavenly Father, mercifully hear our prayers, and grant a long
and happy life to your servant N., whose birthday we
remember this day. May he/she grow in grace as his/her
years increase, and ever live so as to please you; in the power of your
Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Lord God, heavenly Father, I thank you for the life of my child which I
have been given, and for my own life which you have so graciously
preserved. Grant with this fresh gift of life an increase of our love
to you and to one another. Daily renew my strength, and assist me in
caring for my little one. Make my child your own; and help me, that I
may, by word and example, bring up my baby to lead a life pleasing to
you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O Lord, heavenly Father, from whom all fatherhood is named, bless our
new baby. Give to me the spirit of wisdom and love, so that our home
may be an image of your kingdom, and our care an image of your love.
Use me to lead our child to grow in the likeness of Jesus, loving you,
obedient to your will, and happy in your care; through your Son Jesus
Some Biblical References to Baptism
(see also under Section I)
Isaiah 44:1-8; Ezek 39:27-29; Joel 2:28-29; Zech 12:10;
Baptism - Gen. 6 - 9 (the Flood); Exod 14:10-31 (through the Red Sea)
Mt 28:19-20; Acts 2:37-39; 16:27-34; 22:12-16; Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor
10:1-4; 12:12-13; Gal 3:27; Eph 4:4-7; Col 2:11-15; Titus
3:4-8a; Heb 10:19-25; 1 Pet 3:18-22.