Baptism or Christening (which means Christian-making) is a very happy event in the life of a child or adult. The church community of Holy Trinity, Ashford in the Water welcome your interest in seeking baptism and we look forward to sharing in this very important occasion with you. A baptism service is not just a very special day for family members, relatives and friends to enjoy, but the beginning of a life long journey with God, and association with his Church.
We are not into creating hurdles for you to climb over before we would consider baptising your child. We see baptism as a joyful experience, from which we hope that you will feel welcomed by the church community, and feel encouraged to return! In your baptism service we are celebrating a relationship being formed between God, your child, parents and god-parents.
It is not easy sometimes bringing a young family to church, but we hope that you will feel that the effort is rewarded when you do come after the baptism. The All-age Service on the first Sunday of the month at 9.45am is generally interactive and has something for everyone, but every service has something to offer, and children are very welcome, no matter what their age.
Every parent wants the very best for their child in terms of happiness and personal fulfilment. Included in this must be the desire for a child to learn about God and what it means to know and love him. The Christian faith offers everyone the opportunity to root and ground their life in God, discovering our gifts, and finding happiness and a sense of belonging within God's family. Everyone involved in the ministry of Ashford Parish Church will do all that they can to welcome and support you during and after the baptism service.
Can I Have My Baby Christened at Your Church?
Holy Trinity Parish Church has an 'open' baptism policy, which means that we do not like to say no! However, if you live outside the parish boundary of Ashford, we do ask you, as a matter of courtesy, to contact your local vicar to inform them of your child's baptism taking place at Holy Trinity.
Ideally every baptism would take place within a person's local parish church and therefore allow a relationship to grow. However, we recognise that we live in an era of increased mobility and choice and we welcome every opportunity to build a relationship through the contacts made with us. We would ask though, that when a baptism has been conducted at Ashford, that you would consider Holy Trinity as your parish church.
What is Baptism?
It is an opportunity for a family to gather to celebrate and thank God for the new life which he has given.
Baptism is a time when we remember that, as well as being a member of a human family, your baby is a part of God's family too, the family of the Church. In baptism your child is beginning their personal journey of faith, a journey shared by other members of the Church.
It is a 'sacrament', which means it is an outward and visible sign of God's love.
It is also a reminder that we all need to turn away from the darkness of evil and make a new start with God.
Jesus began his ministry in the River Jordan when he was baptised. At this point he understood that God was his Father, and through his baptism he received the presence of God's power and love in the Holy Spirit. After his death on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Day, Jesus commanded his followers to make new disciples and baptise them too. This is what happens to your child through their baptism.
Should My Child Make the Decision?
Nobody should want to impose his or her will on others. However, a parent has to make decisions quite early on that affect their child's well-being and development. These choices are made in love. A child needs milk for their nourishment until they are old enough, so why not also support their spiritual nourishment and teach them about the love of God from an early age?
When they are old enough there is the opportunity for a person to choose for themselves whether they would like to understand more about the Christian faith and make an adult affirmation of faith at a Confirmation Service.
Jesus told his disciples to baptise people who wanted to become Christians and join the church. Baptism is not like an insurance policy, which you take out to make sure that your baby goes to heaven; God loves your child just as much now as after the baptism service.
When Will the Baptism Take Place?
Baptisms take place in the main 9.45am Parish Sunday Service, because part of the service is the welcoming of the child by the congregation. The baptism may take place within the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion) as a reminder that in the breaking of bread we sit and eat with God as his family.
It is also possible to arrange with the vicar for a private baptism to take place at a time other than during the church service.
Some parts of the service will be for the whole congregation to join in; some will be for you and the godparents.
What If I Am Not Baptised?
A person is never too old to be baptised, and if you are an adult who was not baptised as a child then we hope that baptism may be something which you would like to consider for yourself. Parents and godparents will be making declarations on behalf of a child, and therefore it is very important that these declarations can be made confidently and with a commitment to fulfil them.
You will need to consider who you want to have as godparents. It is strongly recommended that they have been baptised, so that they are able to make the baptism promises confidently and with the full awareness of the commitments they are making. Being asked to be a godparent is always a real privilege and shows that you have a special place in the family, but there are expectations and responsibilities too. You are asked to promise that you will love and encourage the child in the Christian faith by prayer, example and teaching. Parents should not feel pressurised to choose the wrong people but try to find people who can make the promises and mean them. There is no right or wrong number of godparents - the minimum is one godmother and one godfather.
During the baptism service the congregation is promising you and your child that it will support and pray for you and provide facilities for your child's Christian upbringing.
There are then three questions about the way you intend to live your life. Parents and Godparents make the promises for themselves and also for the child. They apply to their own lives and on behalf of the children for whom they will be responsible.
Here are the questions with a short explanation:
Do you turn to Christ?
I turn to Christ.
I want to change direction. I accept that my life is not totally my own. I acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and I will try to follow his teaching and his guidance for my life day by day.
Do you repent of your sins?
I repent of my sins.
I am sorry about the past and I know that I am accountable to God for my actions and thoughts. I can never be perfect but as I admit what is wrong he forgives and accepts me.
Do you renounce evil?
I renounce evil.
I know that I sometimes have to make choices between good and evil. I want to set the evil behind me and from now on I will always try to choose the good.
Then the parents and godparents will be asked to declare their own Christian faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. During the declarations made on behalf of a child being baptised, parents and godparents will affirm their belief in God the Father who made the world; in Jesus Christ whose death on the cross has brought humanity life, and in God's Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God.
If you have any difficulty in understanding or making any of the declarations within the Baptism Service, the clergy are happy to discuss them with you and your godparents. It might be that you would prefer a Service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child and a naming ceremony. Details of this are at the end of this Baptism Guide. The choice is yours, but a baptism is a very important occasion and not to be undertaken lightly.
The Sign of the Cross
The minister will make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the child using the holy oil. This is a sign to remind us of how Christ died for each one of us on the cross. As Christ died for us so we are now signed with the cross - the badge of our faith - to remind us that we must not be ashamed to profess our faith and fight against all that is evil. The oil signifies the majesty and power of God filling us with the confidence and strength to walk under his banner.
The water used in baptism is a sign of cleansing and also an important sign of life. Water symbolises how we are all washed clean by God and forgiven and accepted by him. As we cannot live without water so this sign reminds us that we also need the cleansing and renewing presence of God in our lives. The water is blessed, signifying the living presence of God working through it.
Naming of a Child
You will be asked what name(s) you have chosen for your child. The minister takes the child and says: 'N, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit', pouring water three times over your child's forehead as this is said. We answer at the end: 'Amen'.
After the baptism the congregation welcomes the newly baptised into the family of God - both the local Christian community and the Church of God across the world. It has become customary to acknowledge this with applause!
The Lighted Candle
Following the baptism a lighted candle lit from the Paschal (Easter) Candle is given to one of the godparents. This candle belongs to the child and shows them that in baptism we pass from darkness to light. Jesus is described in the Bible as the Light of the World and as Christians we are to shine as lights in the world. Our world needs now, more than ever, for us to all reject the ways of darkness and follow Christ in the Christian faith. It is recommended that this candle be lit on the anniversary of the baptism (or your child's birthday) to remind you of the journey in faith that is being made.
A permanent record of the baptism with family details is recorded in the official registers of the church. A copy of this is given in the form of a special baptism certificate to the parents, and a card for each of the godparents.
Did You Know ...?
A crying baby
Once people thought that it was good if a baby cried at baptism because it was a sign of the devil leaving their soul. People went to some lengths to make sure that they did cry! Thankfully those days have gone. It is important that you relax and enjoy the service and please don't worry if your child becomes restless, or if you need to feed, change or walk about!
There is no charge for a baptism service. During the service (or at the end) a collection will be taken to receive any donation you wish to make towards the continuing work of the church. Completed yellow Gift Aid envelopes, if you pay tax, would enable the church to reclaim tax at no extra cost to you.
Baptism is a sign of entering the Church and traditionally the font which holds the water was placed near the main door of the church as a sign that we become a member of God's family when we pass through the waters of baptism.
Service of Thanksgiving for a Child
If you would like to acknowledge the precious gift of a child and thank God for the joy of parenthood, but do not feel ready to seek baptism, you may like to consider having a service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. In this service you give thanks for the life of your child that is unfolding and your child is blessed. You do not make the same promises as the Baptism service. This service does not prevent having a Baptism service for your child at a later date. Some families find this an excellent way of being introduced to the church.
Lord, we thank you
because by water and the Holy Spirit
you have made us a holy people
in Jesus Christ our Lord;
you raise us to new life in him
and renew in us the image of your glory.
Please do get in touch with us if you'd like to know more about baptisms at Ashford Parish Church, or come and join us at one of our services. We'd love to meet you!