This page is intended mainly for those who have already booked a Christening in one of our churches.
If you are thinking about Christening or giving thanks for your child please visit this page for more information.
Your Baby’s Christening
We're delighted you're thinking of baptism for your child. Your child is precious to you and precious to God. At baptism you promise to raise your child to know God loves them, and to help them to follow Jesus as a member of the Church.
What is baptism?
In baptism, you as parents are:
· thanking God for his gift of life
· making a decision to start your child on the journey of faith
· asking for the Church's support.
For your child, baptism marks the start of a journey of faith, which involves turning away from all that is evil, turning towards Christ and becoming a member of the local and worldwide Christian family.
In baptism, we thank God for his gift of life and publicly acknowledge his love. In the Church of England it is common to baptise young children; this is sometimes known as Christening.
Baptism is a 'sacrament' (holy ritual to symbolise grace) in the Christian tradition that is traced back to Jesus himself being baptized in the river Jordan.
What happens during the service?
Your child's baptism may take place during the main Sunday service (usually in the morning) or at a service in the early afternoon. Your child will 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 in, some will be for you and the godparents.
Part of the baptism service will normally take place at the front of the church, but for the baptism itself, parents and godparents are usually be asked by the priest to gather around the font. (The font is a large basin, containing the water for baptism.)
The priest will ask the parents and godparents to make declarations on behalf of the child.
Making decisions and promises
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 instead to turn towards Christ.
The declarations made by you and the child's godparents will be made in front of the whole congregation; the local Christian community will promise to support you and pray for you and your child.
Symbols and actions used during the service
A number of important symbols and actions 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 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 says:
Christ claims you for his own. Receive the sign of his cross.
Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
• 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.
Water is a sign of life, but also a symbol of death. When we are baptized, it is as though our old life is buried in the waters (like drowning) and we are raised to new life with Christ.
• Anointing - after baptism in water, the minister may 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 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 the Light of the World. A large candle will be lit in the church (the Paschal or Easter Candle) and you will also 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. Godparents must themselves be baptized.
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 and 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.
The information on this page is adapted from the Church of England website:
Congratulations! You’re a Godparent
As a godparent, you have a special role. It's about helping a child to come to know God, encouraging them in their spiritual life and supporting them in their membership of the local church.
You will be expected to be attend the child's baptism, where you will make promises to help to bring them up in the Christian faith.
It's a role that will develop over time, as your godchild grows up and develops their own faith.
It feels like a big responsibility . . .
It is. Have a look at the questions you will answer in the baptism service. Take some time to think through the commitments you make when you answer them. But don't forget that the Church can support you in encouraging and praying for your godchild.
I'm not sure I can make these decisions. What if I've not thought much about my faith and don't go to church regularly?
Most people have doubts at some stage, and no one's asking you to be perfect. However, being asked to be a godparent is a good opportunity to think about your own faith. Godparents must have been baptized themselves. Baptism or confirmation preparation can help you with your own questions about the Christian faith. It will also help you to support your godchild in developing their own faith. If you have any questions at all, why not speak to your parish priest or another Christian you know.
Does being a godparent mean I'm a legal guardian as well?
No. Your role as godparent is a spiritual one - to encourage and pray for your godchild. Perhaps you will be asked to be a guardian too, but that is separate from being a godparent.
What should I give as a present?
The most important gifts you can give your godchild are your time, presence and prayers, but you will probably also want to mark the baptism or confirmation by giving a special gift.
Godparents don't have to buy expensive gifts. A simple, meaningful present is a good choice - maybe something to be used at the baptism, or a gift to be kept for later.
Here are some suggestions. You'll find many of these at Christian bookshops or online.
There are many different editions of the Bible. Some have pictures and simple language especially for children. Some have presentation boxes. It's worth asking the parents if there's a version they prefer. Perhaps you'll decide on a children's Bible at baptism and an adult edition as a confirmation present.
Books of Bible stories:
There are some lovely illustrated books of Bible stories for children. Why not build up a series over the next few years? You can always ask bookshops for advice on age-appropriate titles.
Books of prayers:
You'll find a wide variety available, including illustrated and gift book styles.
A silver or gold cross or chain (remember that your godchild won't be able to wear this for some time).
A small wooden cross
Drawings, paintings and posters of Christian stories
An icon or picture
A Christmas Nativity set
What happens in the baptism service?
When it comes to the baptism itself, the priest asks the parents and godparents to bring the child to the front of the church or gather around the font.
Before the baptism, the priest asks you to declare that you intend to do your best as a godparent. The priest asks you to say that you're 'prepared to walk with [the child] in the way of Christ' and will 'help them take their place within the life and worship of Christ's Church'.
Remember, if you've any doubts you can always discuss them with your priest.
Building a relationship with your godchild
You're a godparent. Now what? Both you and your godchild will get far more out of this relationship if you can keep it alive.
Children love to get letters, postcards and emails. Why not send a card or small gift on the anniversary of the baptism, to show you care about them and to remind you both of what's special about this relationship.
Keep in touch regularly as they grow up. Perhaps when they're older, they'll want to ask questions about faith or Christian life. If you've kept in touch, they might be able to ask you - and that's something special.
Growing in faith: confirmation
Hopefully, later on your godchild will want to make his or her own declaration of faith at a confirmation service. Confirmation is an important occasion. Your godchild confirms the promises you made for them at the baptism service and the bishop leading the service prays for God's Holy Spirit to rest upon your godchild.
Before their confirmation, they attend a series of classes or meetings at their local church or school. They discuss what it means to be a Christian, so they can decide whether to make their own Christian commitment and how they'll express that in their own lives.
A prayer for godparents
I pray that you will guide and support me in being a godparent.
Give me your wisdom and your love.
Help me to be a good example of Christian living
and keep me mindful of my precious godchild [child's name]. Amen.
A prayer for your godchild
thank you for the gift of [child's name]
and for all the joy he/she brings us.
Be with her/him on her/his Christian journey
so she/he may come to know our Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and friend. Amen.
The information on this page is adapted from the Church of England website: www.churchofengland.org