Baptism (Christening)

Christian beginnings at St Mary’s Kilburn and St James West Hampstead

Baptism is how we become Christian and we are welcomed into the family of God. In the Church of England we welcome enquiries for baptism (christening) and we have a leaflet which is intended to give a little background information. If you would like to know more then please do speak to our Vicar.

What is Baptism?

Baptism is a Sacrament of the Church – an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace of God. This simply means that as the water of baptism is poured over us God changes us for ever – the Spirit of God comes to live in the heart of the newly baptised and we can never be separated from God again.

It is a moment of grace and joy. Through baptism we become members of the Church, the body of Christ here on earth. We are changed for ever and become heirs of the promises of Christ and God’s adopted children. In baptism we are born again into the new life of the Kingdom of God, in which we will live and grow through our lives.

Who can be baptised?

The short answer is that anyone can be baptised, so long as you have not previously been baptised! Baptism is a once-and-for- always event.

In the past most children were baptised before their first birthday – traditionally many were baptised before they were six weeks old. These days, most baptisms take place within the first couple of years of a child’s life, though we do baptise a lot of older children and an increasing number of adults who were not baptised as children. There is no right or wrong age to be baptised.

Older children and adults are baptised and then immediately admitted to Holy Communion (able to receive the blessed Bread and Wine at Mass) and are expected to go on to be confirmed (become members of the Church of England) shortly after their baptism.

In this parish we ask that, if you wish your child to be baptised, you attend Sunday worship regularly for a short period of three months before the baptism. Our Vicar will want to meet with you, and is happy to explain our worship and to talk about the meaning of baptism and answer any questions you might have about how you can help your child grow and understand the Christian faith. If you are an adult and wanting to be baptised he/she will arrange some sessions with you to explore your understanding of the Christian faith and to share with you what it might mean for you to be a Christian in the world today.

What about Godparents?

Every child has Godparents whose role is to support them as they grow in the Christian faith and to pray for them and their family. When their godchild is confirmed (becomes a member of the Church of England, usually at the age of around 12-14) their Godparents present them to the Bishop and at that point their official role comes to an end.

It is a requirement, and traditional, to have a minimum of three (two of the same gender and one of the opposite) though you can choose as many as you like.

All Godparents must themselves be Christian – which means that they must be baptised and you should think carefully about who you choose, bearing in mind their important role in providing a role model to the child in the Christian faith. Ideally they should be Christians who go to church themselves.

You may well have other friends who are not Christian whom you would like to be a part of your child’s life. They cannot be formal Godparents but they can still attend the baptism and be supporters as you raise your child and get involved in all the usual ways.

It is not usual for adults who are baptised to have Godparents since they are adults and can make the promises of the Baptismal service for themselves but some people like to have a sponsor, a close friend, who will support and pray for them as they grow in faith.

What happens in the service?

Baptisms take place as part of the normal Sunday morning service. The family and Godparents declare their own faith in God and their belief in Jesus Christ as the One in whom we see God face to face. The congregation welcome the newly baptised and promise to pray for and support the whole family.

The priest blesses water – and the baptism is made ‘In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit’. The priest will make the sign of the Cross on the forehead of the person being baptised as a sign that they now belong to Christ forever.

The newly baptised receive a candle, which is symbolic of the light of Jesus Christ, in whom there is no darkness. We then share the peace with each other, a reminder of our unity as members of the same family of baptised people under the one God. The Eucharist, the family meal, of God’s people is then celebrated.

If you would like to know more about baptism for yourself or for your child, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.