In presenting your child for baptism
We are happy that you are seeking Baptism for your child. We believe that this is an important day for you and for your family, as it is also for the Christian family to which your child will now belong more fully. We know that as parents you will discuss this together and with your Minister and that he will explain to you what is to take place. We hope that it may be of help to you to have something in writing also.
What does Baptism mean?
Baptism is first a sign of God’s forgiveness of mankind in which we share corporately. In any sacrament there is an outward sign which corresponds to its inward meaning. The sprinkled water carries with it the meaning of cleansing; and it directs that promise to the child who is baptised, in whom God’s Spirit is planted. It is second a sign of our fellowship with Jesus. The New Testament, thinking of baptism by immersion, links the going down into the water and rising from it with Jesus' death and resurrection and thinks of the one who is baptised as sharing that experience. At other places it uses the metaphor as sharing that experience. At other places it uses the metaphor from gardening of the grafting of a branch into a root-stock. Always the sense is the same, that by baptism we are linked so closely with Christ that his life is at work in us. And 'third, it is a sign that, because we are united with Christ we are part of the Christian community. At this point your child is made a member of the Church who shares in its life and mission and worship. Joining the Church really comes now.
But there are limits. Because the gifts of baptism imply growth in grace, the Church administers baptism to children when at least one parent is a member or adherent or where a child is under Christian guardianship. The Church believes that those it baptises should have the promise of a Christian upbringing so that they can be expected in due course to take for themselves the promises made on their behalf and to profess the faith in which they were baptised. Baptism marks the beginning of a process which lays important obligations upon the parents and the Church and in which God also takes His part.
The Parents' Responsibility
That is why we ask you to profess your faith again at this point. At baptism you offer to God the new life of the child He has given you, and you promise to bring your family up in the Christian faith. You are to be
the channel of God's grace to your child, your love and correction a small picture of God's. It is through your faith that his (or her) faith will grow; as you pray with him, that prayer will have meaning for him; as you
worship with him, that he will worship too; as you speak of Christianity, that he will begin to understand it. At baptism the promise of God's help for you is renewed and you are assured again of Christ's presence with you in your new responsibilities.
Baptism is not a guarantee the child will thrive, a charm to shield the child from danger. It is not essential to salvation, as if the child who is not baptised were condemned. But it is the way God has chosen to strengthen us in Christian living, to encourage parents and children in faith. It is Christ's sacrament. The Church administers it in his name. This is what
gives it such value for us. It says to us, God loves this child. Jesus' love enfolds this child. This child
belongs within the Christian family. It declares God's intention and ours that our children should grow to Christian manhood and womanhood, and carries the promise that Jesus' blessing is upon our children as it was upon the children of Jerusalem in the Gospel story.
The Congregation's Responsibility
The congregation too has its responsibility. As a sign of this, baptism normally takes place during public worship in face of the congregation. As a sign of this, the members stand with you during your child's
baptism, for they have professed the same faith. Within the Christian fellowship, in Sunday School and Bible Class and by other means, the congregation will help to provide for his or her Christian nurture. We
hope that you will take these opportunities, and that since you are members not just of one congregation, but of Christ’s Church, you will make full use of them wherever you may settle in years to come.
At the service the Minister will explain what baptism means. He will ask you to confess your faith again, as when you became communicant members, and to promise to bring your child up in the faith and in the ways of the Church and by your life and teaching to give him a Christian upbringing. Then he will set apart the water for its use in baptism and baptise your child in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The congregation may be asked to stand with you during the baptism and may sing a blessing, usually in these words: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. After that the Minister offers prayers for the child, his parents and home and for the congregation.
In seeking baptism for your child we believe you have made the only right beginning in Christian parenthood. This leaflet is written to help you to understand more clearly what you are doing and to encourage you to build upon the foundation which Christian baptism supplies. From it we hope you also have the assurance that in your new responsibilities you will be supported by the prayers of the whole Christian family as well as by Christ Himself.