Baptism and Confirmation
Baptism – which is sometimes called ‘christening’ in the case of a child or baby – marks the beginning of a person’s membership of the Church. It is when a person makes a declaration of their faith and their intention to continue to grow in that faith. Promises are made and water is poured on the candidate as a symbol of the new start that is being made – a spiritual cleansing.
In the case of babies or young children, this declaration is made in the Church of England by others on their behalf, together with a promise that the child concerned will be brought up to understand the faith and the promises which were made for them. For those baptized as young children, the further step of Confirmation (see below) is when the person concerned makes their own commitment as a teenager or adult.
Within the Church, baptism is seen as a very special ‘sacrament’ or visible sign of God’s love for us, when the promises of God are claimed by or on behalf of the person concerned. It is one of the two sacraments that Jesus himself instructed us to continue. In baptism, we are thanking God for his gift of life (however old we are) and publicly acknowledging his love. We are acknowledging that we all need to turn away from selfishness and evil and to accept God’s offer of a new start.
Most Anglican churches have a font – or place of baptism – close to the door. This is representative of the fact that baptism is the point of entry to the Church in a spiritual as well as practical sense. The Baptismal fonts in these Downland churches are very old, and have been in use for many centuries.
We would be delighted to discuss with you the baptism of your baby or child. There are a lot of different reasons why parents today bring children for baptism – to give thanks to God for their baby; because it is a family tradition; to throw a party; because it somehow feels the ‘right’ thing to do. These are all fine as starting points, but we will want to make sure that you understand the promises that are being made and their meaning. After discussion with you, we will check out whether you want to go ahead with a Baptism service or whether the service of ‘thanksgiving for the birth of a child’ (which does not involve making the same promises) might be more appropriate. Either way, we will be happy to welcome you and your family.
If you do decide to go ahead with the Baptism of your child, we will then discuss the practicalities with you. You will need to choose people to make the promises on your child’s behalf (the godparents). They should themselves be baptized.
Ideally, the service of Baptism takes place during a regular church service. This is because Baptism involves the church community welcoming a new member. However, we recognize that 10am (the time of our Sunday services) is not necessarily a convenient time for families who have relatives coming from a distance. If you would prefer to arrange a special service at a different time – perhaps in an afternoon - we are happy to discuss this with you. However, we would ask you to bring your child to a regular Sunday service soon afterwards, to be introduced to the congregation and welcomed by them. The gift of a Bible will be given from the church when the child is welcomed.
There is no fee charged for Baptism – it is part of our mission and purpose.
If you were baptized as a baby and now wish to take a further step by making the promises your own, do contact the Priest in Charge, who will be happy to talk this through with you. Unlike baptism, which can take place at any time and is conducted in your local church by your regular vicar or a visiting priest, Confirmation is undertaken by the Bishop on an area basis. There is an annual confirmation service in each Deanery (group of parishes) and dates are set in advance. Preparation classes will be arranged by your priest in charge on an individual or group basis.
If you are an adult interested in Baptism, please do contact the Priest in Charge who will be pleased to discuss this with you. Like confirmation, adult baptism always takes place after a period of preparation, which may be combined with a Bible study course or Lent group involving other members of the Church or undertaken individually. Confirmation may follow quite quickly or even at the same time.
Traditionally, receiving Holy Communion follows Confirmation, and in some parishes, there is a special service of ‘first communion’. However, we are also happy for members of other branches of the Christian church to receive communion with us if they would be eligible to do so within their own church. Arrangements are also in place in some churches for children to receive Holy Communion prior to confirmation after suitable preparation. As yet, this arrangement is not in place in these churches.
Further information and links
In addition to information from your priest in charge, The Church of England website (www.cofe.anglican.org ) has further explanatory notes and details about Baptism and Confirmation,