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The significance and meaning of Baptism

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Your child is to receive the gift of being a member of God’s family. But baptisms are about giving as well as receiving. As parents you are offering your children back to God.

 

At the baptism service people from the church will welcome you, your family and friends and most of all, the new member of God’s family. You may feel rather tense when it comes to the service. One thing you can know is that God’s love is unconditional.

 

During the Baptism service, familiar articles like water, oil and candles will be used. They all have symbolic meanings that have developed over centuries.

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The Gift of a child

 

The minister leading the service will welcome your child with his or her family and friends at the beginning of the service. Later in the service, the minister will ask if the people present will welcome the child and sustain him or her in their new life after baptism. Then he will ask the parents and godparents if they will help the child grow in faith through prayer, example, and support.

 

A few minutes after the actual baptism, everyone present will greet the child by saying: ‘We welcome you into the fellowship of faith; We are children of the same heavenly Father; We welcome you.’

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The Gift of Light

 

One of the strongest images in the baptism service is the idea of living in darkness and then moving into the light.

 

This part of the baptism service is concerned with turning away from all that is wrong and facing the new life in Christ. When the first Christians were baptised, the ceremony usually took place early in the morning. They stood facing the west. At the words ‘I turn to Christ’, they turned around to face the rising sun.

 

The minister leading the service asks the questions and the people taking part in the baptism answer with the words printed in bold. The questions are very searching.

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The Gift of the Cross

 

The two symbols discussed here are oil and the sign of the cross.

 

Your child will be given invisible badges just before he or she is baptised. The minister will sign your child on the forehead with the sign of the cross. This shows that they belong to Jesus and are part of his family, the Church. We believe that Jesus died on the cross to save us.

 

Just as belonging to a school or a club carries responsibilities, so does belonging to Christ. Your child will gradually learn what it means to be a follower and friend of Jesus for the rest of their lives.

 

In some church the sign of the cross on the forehead will be made with oil. We all need oil to keep us going: olive oil is used in food, cooking, cosmetics, and medicine; fossil oil is used in engines and cars.

 

The ‘Oil of Strengthening’ may be used to make the sign of the cross before baptism as a sign of strengthening your child to run the Christian race of life – like an athlete uses embrocation.

 

Your child may be anointed again after the baptism with the ‘Oil of Blessing’ or ‘Chrism’. This is a mixture of oil and perfume, used as a sign of God’s Holy Spirit being poured out on us at particular turning points of life.

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The Gift of Water

 

Water is vital for life. Nothing can survive without it.  We drink it, wash in it and use it to refresh us. Lack of water leads to dirt, disease, and death. Water can also be dangerous. Floods damage livelihoods and property. People can be drowned.

 

Your child will be baptised by water being poured over their heads, or maybe by being totally immersed in the water. This symbolises three things.

 

1. Cleansing: water is used in many cultures as a sign of washing away sins and making a fresh start. Baptism is about becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. That means turning away from sin – the things in our own lives and in the wider world that are wrong – and accepting the new life in all its fullness that Jesus promised us. Before the Baptism you will be asked to reject all that is evil and to be sorry for the sins that spoil our relationships with God and each other. Your child is too young to make these promised for him/herself, but we can still pray that they will come to know God’s forgiveness and the new life that it brings.

 

 

2. New Life: Many Christians are baptised by walking down into a pool, going under the water and then out at the other side. This is a sign of new life. It also reminds us that Jesus died, went down into the earth, and then rose again. In baptism we ‘die’ to the past and to self-centredness, and rise to new life as Christians. Emerging from the waters reminds us of the waters that broke when we were born.

 

3. Refreshment: Water refreshes us when we are hot and tired. It revives dried up plants. Jesus said that he would give us ‘living water’ He said that people who ‘drank from him’ would never be thirsty.

 

 

 

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The Font

 

The Font is like a large bowl. It is traditionally placed near the church door to symbolise that the newly baptised person is entering the church. It may also be in the centre of the building so that everyone can see the baptism and welcome the new Christian into God’s family, the Church. The shape of the font is symbolic: roundness reminds us of the eternity of God, and an octagon shows the seven days of the creation with the eighth side being the resurrection, our new creation. A rectangle is the shape of a grave: in baptism we are buried and then risen with Christ. The font also symbolises the maternal womb out of which each one of us was born.

 

You will assemble with your child, your family and godparents around the font. The minister will bless the water and then will baptise the children by pouring water three times over their heads. The minister may use a baptismal shell to hold the water. Large shells were worn by pilgrims as a sign that they were on pilgrimage, a journey to a holy place. The Christian life is a journey that goes through life until we enjoy God’s presence in heaven.

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The Gift of faith

 

We cannot explain God. We cannot prove that he exists. When we talk about him we often tell stories, like those in the Bible. We also use signs and symbols, like the cross, water, and light.

 

The early Christians spent a lot of time trying to find words to explain what Christians believe. Eventually they wrote a statement of faith. This is often called the Creed, from the Latin word credo which means ‘I believe’:

 

 

 

 

         It starts with belief in God the Father who created everything.

 

         Then it recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s own Son.

 

         The last section speaks of God the Holy Spirit, the giver of God’s life and power to his people.

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The Gift of New Life

 

This is the central part of the baptism service. You have asked for your child to be baptised. This is the moment when your request is granted. Part of bringing up children is gradually letting them go. You will hand your child over to the minister. You are offering them back to God. You are also allowing God to act in them as they start on life’s pilgrimage. When they are baptised your child will be addressed by his or her name, their Christian name. This reminds us that God knows us as individuals and calls each one of us by our names. We belong to him and we can call him our Father.

 

The minister will lift your child up and pour water over her head three times saying “N. I baptise you in the name of the father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”. The minister may use a large shell for the water. The shell is a sign of pilgrimage. This reminds us that your child is starting out on a journey as a Christian.

 

People being baptised usually wear white as a sign of cleansing and new life.

The Gift of Glory

 

Just as they will grow physically and mentally, your child will also grow spiritually. We hope that they will grow to know God. They will meet in him through worship, prayer, other people and the beauty of creation. Our duty is to help them recognise God in all these things.

 

In the service the minister will remind you of your duty to bring up your child in the Christian faith.

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The Baptism of your child

 

If you require further information regarding being Baptised at Holy Trinity please ring Eileen Clark on 01733 234228.