Christening, Baptism

and Confirmation

 

Welcome to our question and answer section on christening (baptism)!

 

You will find information here addressing some of the typical queries that are often raised. Essentially a christening is easy to book! We take great delight in welcoming christening parties to church for this special occasion, whether or not the family concerned are regular church goers. 

 

What is the difference between christening and baptism?

 

The two words refer to the same ceremony. So when a child is christened, it is also baptised. The church sometimes prefers to use the word baptism, but this implies christening when a child is involved. For simplicity the word baptism will be used in this document. 

 

What do the words christening and baptism actually mean?

 

The word christening refers to the giving of a child’s Christian names, in a special ceremony in the church. Baptism is the rite that goes back 2,000 years to the beginnings of Christianity, of rinsing or anointing with water, as a one-off event, to indicate God’s washing of the person with his holiness and love. In church tradition it involves the sprinkling of a child’s head with blessed water from the font - the ancient stone basin located near the back of the church. Traditional vows are recited by the parents and godparents on behalf of the child, expressing a ‘turning to Christ‘ (see below). A candle is lit and presented at the end of the ceremony, signifying Christ’s presence in the life of the child. 

 

How did the tradition of baptising babies start?

 

In the early years of Christianity, when adults came to Christian faith, and so were baptised, they naturally wanted to share the ceremony with their children as well, as a seal of God’s love; a sign of belonging to the wider Christian family. So the tradition of baptising new born babies soon became established.  

 

Can I have my baby christened without being baptised?

 

In a way, yes, although the word christening would not be used in this case. Instead the church offers a short service called Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child. In this service the baby or child is prayed for, its Christian names publicly affirmed, and promises are made by the parents to raise the child with Christian principles and understanding. The rite of baptism using water from the font, and vows on the child’s behalf, and the presentation of a flame, are not incorporated in this service. So effectively the Thanksgiving service is a simple naming ceremony in a church setting, without the baptism element. This may be discussed further with the Rector. 

 

How do I book a baptism?

 

Contact the Rector by phone, email, or in person. Details on the home page of this website. 

 

When do baptisms usually take place?

 

A baptism may be part of a scheduled Sunday morning service at 10.30 am, which will last up to an hour. Or the baptism may be arranged separately for a Sunday afternoon, to start between 2 pm and 3.30 pm, or any time on a Saturday according to the Rector’s availability, and lasting about 20 minutes. (The word ‘private’ with regard to baptism, refers to an emergency baptism in the home or a hospital. Whereas any service in a parish church is by definition a ‘public’ one.) 

 

Can the service take place in any parish church?

 

Parents may bring their child for baptism in their own parish church where they live. Baptism is also possible in a parish church where the child does not live, although as a courtesy the vicar or rector of the home parish should be informed in advance.  

 

How much does a baptism cost?

 

The Church of England does not set a formal fee for baptism, as the service celebrates the free gift of God’s love! However, in order to enable the church to meet its practical running costs, at least £30 would be a reasonable expectation, which is only about one tenth the cost of a church wedding. This may be placed in the collection plate at the time of the service. The use of a gift aid envelope is encouraged, as the church will benefit from this because of its charitable status. 

 

What about godparents?

 

At least two godparents, one of each gender, should be chosen for the child. There is a tradition of a having two godfathers and one godmother for a boy, and two godmothers and one godfather for a girl. More than three godparents may be chosen if desired. The role of godparent carries no implication of legal guardianship. It is a spiritual role of promising to pray for the child, and take an interest in its spiritual development. Strictly speaking, the godparents should themselves have been baptised and preferably confirmed, although crucially they should be able to recite the promises and vows with sincerity and meaning. It is possible for the parents themselves to be assigned as godparents, although both parents and godparents together recite the same words in the service (see below). 

 

Can an older child or adult be baptised?

 

Yes! In this case the person being baptised recites the vows personally, promising to ‘turn to Christ’ (see below). Although it has been a church tradition for many centuries to baptise babies, adults who were not baptised as infants have consistently been baptised in the church as well. Jesus himself was about 30 when he was baptised. The mature candidate, and also the parents of a child, should have a level of Christian awareness and understanding. The Rector can help with informal preparation in this regard. Godparents are not required for an older candidate, but one or more ‘supporting friends’ may be chosen to be present at the ceremony - preferably someone with experience of Christian faith, who has been baptised and confirmed. 

 

Music

 

Hymns are not usually sung at a baptism, except when it is part of a scheduled Sunday morning service. However, if requested, an organist can normally be employed for a separate baptism at another time, for a fee of £40.  

 

Shouldn’t a child be allowed to make up its own mind in due course?

 

Yes! The service of baptism (christening) is part one of a formal, public turning to God in a Christian context - a promise. The second part, the fulfilment of that promise, may happen when the child becomes mature, and decides for themselves that they would like personally to confirm those promises made on their behalf when they were an infant. Hence the Church offers the service of confirmation, which presents just such an opportunity. In this way the baptised child, when they reach maturity, is able to exercise personal integrity, by choosing whether to be confirmed.

 

Confirmation

 

This service is held in Norwich cathedral for any baptised adult or older child in the Diocese of Norwich (mostly Norfolk), about three times per year. Some preparation with regard to personal Christian faith and understanding will be required, with the Rector, either in a small group, or one to one. For older children, school Year 6 and upwards is probably a good age to begin to consider confirmation. There is no upper age limit! In 2009 confirmation services at the cathedral will take place on Easter eve, Saturday 11 April, Saturday 6 June, and Saturday 7 November. 

 

Some extracts from the baptism service:

 

Baptism Promises 

1)    Faith is the gift of God to his people. In baptism the Lord is bringing to our fellowship those whom he is calling. Family, friends, and supporters of N.... will you welcome him / her and uphold him / her in his / her life in Christ?

            Congregation: With the help of God, we will. 

2)   Parents & godparents, the church receives N.... with joy today. We are trusting God for his / her growth in faith. Will you pray for him / her, draw him / her by your example into the community of faith, and walk with him / her in the way of Christ?

            Parents & godparents: With the help of God, we will. 

3)   In baptism, N....'s journey of faith is made public. Parents and godparents, you will speak for him / her today. Will you care for him / her and help him / her to take his / her place within the life and worship of Christ's church?

            Parents & godparents: With the help of God, we will. 

 

Baptism Vows 

If the person being baptised is an adult or an older child, they say the responses for themselves. They are also echoed by candidates for confirmation in that service: 

1)   Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?

            Parents & godparents :   I reject them. 

2)   Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?

            Parents & godparents :   I renounce them. 

3)   Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?

            Parents & godparents :   I repent of them. 

4)   Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?

            Parents & godparents :   I turn to Christ. 

5)   Do you submit to Christ as Lord?

            Parents & godparents :   I submit to Christ. 

6)   Do you come to Christ the way, the truth, and the life?

            Parents & godparents :   I come to Christ. 

 

Statement of belief 

Recited by the congregation: 

Do you believe and trust in God the Father, source of all being and life, the one for whom we exist?

            All :      I believe and trust in him. 

Do you believe and trust in God the Son, who took our human nature, died for us, and rose again?

            All :      I believe and trust in him. 

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God, and makes Christ known to the world?

            All :      I believe and trust in him. 

This is the faith of the church.

            All :      This is our Faith.

                        We believe and trust in one God;

                        Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

 

Not sure? 

You are welcome to speak directly with me, the Rector, if you would like to discuss any of these issues in further detail.

 

Revd. Robin Stapleford

Upper Wensum Rectory

Market Hill

Colkirk 

Tel: 01328 853226

email:  upperwensumrector@btinternet.com