The birth of a child is a significant event in a family’s life – both the immediate family of that child, and also their extended families. It is a sign of new beginnings, and a new future through a new generation. It is also the beginning of many years of deep commitment by the parents to the growth and development of their child. Parents of a new child often wish to celebrate this new beginning and new life in a special way. We at St Luke’s are privileged when we are asked to share in this.
Anyone is welcome to be baptised or have their child baptised here. Sometimes people called baptism ‘christening’. Christen is an Old English term, meaning ‘to Christ-en’, to make someone one with Christ. Baptism comes from the Greek baptizo meaning to dip.
Background to Baptism: Baptism is a ritual with an evolving history – originally a cleansing rite, then a commitment rite, and nowadays most often a celebration of belonging. Baptism has been the means by which people have expressed their belonging for nearly 2000 years. It began as a ritual washing of people who converted to the new Christian faith. There are examples of this in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 8: 26-40; Acts 9: 10-19). Normally such people were adults, though sometimes it would include a whole family, adults and children (e.g. Acts 16: 11-15 and 25-34). As time went by, adults who were already baptised Christians wished their newborn children to also be baptised and so from the very beginning of their lives to be part of the Christian community (the church). All churches these days, with a few minor exceptions, admit people to Christian community through baptism. Most churches baptise children and adults, although some only baptise adults.
In St Luke.s, baptism is available for children and for adults. Baptisms in St Luke’s are conducted during the Sunday morning service (9.30am). A baptism is a public occasion as distinct from a private or family occasion such as a wedding or even a funeral.
While a baptism is performed by the minister, it is on behalf of the whole church community.
Parental commitment. While the child is the focus of the ceremony, baptism is not something “done” to a child (like, for instance, medical inoculations appropriate for a small child’s health). In and of itself, baptism doesn’t make any difference to the child. It is a celebration that God has always loved this children, and will always love this child.
Baptism is both a celebration of the gift of a new life within a family, and also marks the beginning of a child’s life within the Christian community and the Christian faith. Only the child’s parents can make that a reality. The church is a partner with the parents in this Christian nurture through Sunday school and so on. All our children will, of course, have the right later in their life to decide whether or not Christian faith is for them.
While the parents are the principal care-givers and nurtures of the baptised child, others are also involved. Sometimes a couple will invite some friends or family members to be godparents to their child.
Baptism is into the whole church, through a particular church. Children are baptised as Christians, not into a denomination. No one is baptised ‘Presbyterian’, for example, nor into a specific community such as St Luke’s.
However, it is preferable that a child be baptised by the particular Christian community she or he will continue to be part of. Sometimes we receive a request for baptism from a family living at such a distance from St Luke’s that any level of regular involvement in St Luke’s is impractical.
In such cases we encourage the parents to explore the possibility of baptism at a church they are or would be
able to be involved with closer to where they live. If, however, they wish to be linked to St Luke’s despite distance, we welcome the opportunity to discuss baptism further with them.
There is a commitment asked of the church community during the baptism service. The congregation are partners with the parents in their child’s Christian nurture.