In baptism, you as parents are thanking God for his gift of life, deciding to start your child on the journey of faith and asking for the Church's support.
For your child, baptism: marks the start of a journey of faith, which involves turning away from the darkness of self-centredness, turning towards Christ and becoming a member of the local and worldwide Christian family.
Baptism is a 'sacrament': a visible sign of God's love. In baptism, we are thanking God for his gift of life and publicly acknowledging his love. We are acknowledging that we all need to turn away from the darkness of evil and to make a new start with God.
When you bring your child for baptism, you will be asked to declare publicly on behalf of your child that you believe in God and that you will bring your child up to follow Jesus.
You will be asked to answer on your child's behalf, that you have decided to turn away from everything which is evil or sinful and to turn instead towards Christ.
The declarations made by you and the child's godparents will be made in front of the church congregation. The Christian community will promise to support you and pray for you and your child.
What happens during the service?
Your child's baptism will normally take place during the main Sunday service (usually in the morning). This is so that your child can be seen to be joining the family of the Church and be welcomed into membership. In turn the Church will promise to support and pray for you and your child.
The priest will make sure you know where to sit and when you need to move.
Some parts of the service will be for the whole congregation to join, some will be for you and the godparents.
For the baptism itself, parents and godparents will be asked by the priest to gather either at the front of the church or around the font. (The font is a large basin on a pedestal, containing the water for baptism.)
A number of important symbols will be used during the service itself:
The sign of the cross - the priest will make the sign of the cross on your child's forehead. This is the ‘Christening’ and 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.
The priest may invite you and the godparents to sign the cross on the child's forehead after he or she has done so.
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. It is also a sign of belonging.
Anointing - after baptism in water, the minister may put the christening robe on the child and anoint him or her with oil. This is a sign of the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit.
The priest says: 'May God, who has received you by baptism into his Church, pour upon you the riches of his grace, that within the company of Christ's pilgrim people you may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit, and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.'
The welcome - the church congregation will say some formal words of welcome to acknowledge that you 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 shares this light with others.
The role of godparents
Godparents make the same promises on behalf of the child being baptised as parents. Godparents promise to pray and support the child and to help the parents to bring up the child in the Christian faith. It is an important and responsible role.
You should have at least three godparents: two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. Godparents can be family members or friends. However, it is important that you choose people who will take an interest in your child's spiritual welfare and who will pray for you and your child. They should be baptised themselves.
You may wish to ask your parish priest about having a service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child.
In this service, you thank God for the gift of your child ad the child is blessed. You do not make the same promises as in the Baptism service.
If you choose to have a Thanksgiving, you may also have a Baptism service for your child at a later date.
To arrange for your child to be baptised you will need to contact your local vicar or parish priest.
Details of your local church may be found at Find Your Church or A Church Near You.