Baptisms are usually conducted once a month at St Boniface during the ordinary Sunday service so that your child can be welcomed into the family of God. You need to contact the cathedral to make an appointment to come in and meet with the priest who will take the service, and discuss preparation and practicalities including godparents and the date for the baptism.
This is a time of great happiness and a time of great responsibility. We would like to share your happiness and your responsibility. The Church takes Baptism very seriously, and we ask you to consider the following questions:
Why is Baptism important?
In what way is it important for me, for my family, and my child?
What difference will it make to my child?
Jesus teaching about Baptism is clearly stated in the Gospel of John, in Chapter 3, verses 1 to 6: “there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Jesus teaches that at our natural birth we are given life for this present world. We become members of our natural families and citizens of the country in which we are born. But, says Jesus, that natural birth is not enough for those who would be his disciples. His disciples must be spiritually born to become members of God’s family and citizens of God’s Kingdom. The Sacrament of Baptism is the means whereby we become disciples of Jesus, members of God’s family and Citizens of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan. This was a turning point in his life (you can read the story in the Bible: at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel in the New Testament). Jesus told his followers to baptise others as a sign that they had turned away from their old life, and begun a new life as Christ’s disciples, members of his Body, having been assured of God’s forgiveness.
Baptisms often took place in a river: new Christians were dipped under the water, marking their death to an old way of life, and were lifted up again as a sign of new birth. Some churches still follow the practice of full immersion in water today.
There are some who argue that children should not be baptised until they are old enough to understand what is happening. They point out, quite rightly, that there is no direct reference to the baptism of children in the Bible. But while there is no direct reference, it is there by inference.
Jesus says, “….unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:5). He also says, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:14). So if children are to belong to the Kingdom of God, and if admission to the Kingdom of God is only by Baptism, then surely Jesus intended that children should be baptised.
Furthermore, the baptism of small children witnesses to an important spiritual truth; Faith begins not with what we do for God but with what God does for us. God first loved us and there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love. In baptising small children we remind ourselves of that basic truth, over and over again.
WHAT TO DO
FIRST, you should examine your own faith. Do you believe in God the Father, maker of all things? Do you believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, redeemer of the world? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, giver of life and truth? And are you prepared to teach and encourage your child in this belief?
You should be able to answer YES to all these questions. You will be required to do so during the Service of Baptism.
Remember that your child’s faith will be learned in your home. Your faith, your words and your actions will be your child’s first example and model. The Church is able to help and support you but yours will be the first and primary responsibility.
SECOND, call and arrange for meeting with one of the church priest. At that meeting everything will be explained and a time and date for the Baptism will be set. This will normally be during one of the Sunday Services. Baptism is not a private ceremony. It is a time when new members are born into the Family of God and it is therefore fitting that other members of God’s Family are present. Baptism is an unrepeatable sacrament of initiation, and Eucharist (Holy Communion) is a repeatable sacrament of initiation. Therefore the best time for celebrating Baptism, is in a service that includes the Eucharist. St Augustine says that Baptism makes us ‘little Christs’ – Christians. Baptism incorporates us into the body of Christ, the Church. Billy Graham says there is no such thing as an individual Christian. We certainly benefit from the support and shared faith of the Christian family. In the Baptism service the words of welcome are: “We therefore receive and welcome you as a member with us of the body of Christ, as a child of the one heavenly Father, and as an inheritor of the kingdom of God.”
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE BAPTISM SERVICE?
Some parts of the service are for the whole congregation to join in, some are for you and the godparents. For the baptism itself, parents and godparents will be asked by the priest to gather at the front of the church and around the font (the large basin on a pedestal, containing the water for baptism). The priest will ask the parents and godparents to make declarations on behalf of the child.
The sign of the cross. The priest will make the sign of the cross on your child’s forehead. This is like an invisible badge to show that Christians are united with Christ and must not be ashamed to stand up for their faith in him.
Water. The priest will pour water on your child’s head. Water is a sign of washing and cleansing. In baptism it is a sign of being washed free from sin and beginning a new life with God. Water is a sign of life, but also a symbol of death. When we are baptised our old life is buried in the waters (like drowning) and we are raised to new life with Christ.
Anointing. After Baptism in water, the minister may anoint him or her with oil. This is a sign of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.
The Welcome. The church congregation will say words of welcome to acknowledge that your child has joined the Church and to show how pleased they are to have you among them.
Candles. Jesus is called the light of the world. A large candle may be lit in the church and you may be given a lighted candle at the end of the service as a reminder of the light which has come into your child’s life. It is up to you, the child’s godparents and the church community to help your child reject the world of darkness and follow a way of life that reflects goodness and light, and share this light with others. It is a good idea to keep the candle in a safe place and use it for special occasions: for example, on birthdays, on anniversaries of the Baptism, at the time of the child’s Confirmation and First Communion.
Godparents or sponsors. It is traditional for a child to have three Godparents – two Godfathers and one Godmother for a boy and two Godmothers and one Godfather for a girl – but there is no hard and fast rule about this. It is more important to choose the right people. They should be people who will continue to take a personal interest in their Godchild’s growth and development. They should also be people who profess the Christian Faith and practice it in their lives.
Fees. There is no obligatory fee for Baptism but most people like to make a thank offering to the Church.
FINALLY Has all this helped you answer the questions at the beginning? If you still have queries, talk with one of the priests.