I wanted to share this with you today because we have been talking about baptism a lot recently and this song was used in the service on Sunday morning – very theatrical and dramatic which had a profound effect on everyone.
Sunday just gone was the day we think about Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, hence the water theme, and we revisited the readings from Sunday at last night’s bible study group. We talked about what baptism is, what it means, why did Jesus need to be baptised if he was from God anyway and a whole host of other questions along those lines.
We talked about the necessity (or not) of water in baptism, and how it is a symbolic cleansing as we undergo a major change and are claimed by God as his own. The Christian church is full of symbolism, none more so than when we baptise each other.
When we baptise babies, parents and godparents are pledging to God the life of that child. Some would say we dedicate them to God, others say we are placing them on their own personal pathway of faith. It has been the tradition that when children get to a certain age – different in different churches but generally around 12 years old or thereabouts – they undergo further tuition and take the decision to become Confirmed. This is a confirmation of faith and confirmation of the decision that was taken by their parents when they were baptised as children. But what happens then?
I am finding that now, as an adult with much more water under her bridge than I could have ever anticipated at the age of 14 when I got Confirmed, I would actually like to take the conscious decision to be baptised into my church because – at last – I know what it is I’m getting myself into, so to speak. But I can’t, because I’ve already been baptised and as Christians we believe that there is one baptism, one faith, one Lord.
It calls the practice of baptising babies into question then doesn’t it? By admitting a child into the church by baptism as a baby we are denying them of the chance to make an informed choice later on. So why do we do it?
Some would say that without a baptism, a child would fail to thrive, or isn’t “in God’s care” and therefore at risk from devils and demons…. yeah, I know. Superstitions run high even in this age of modern enlightenment, but the point remains that baptism for infants and children is still a highly respected sacrament in many people’s lives.
I made the point last night in our discussion group that the baptism of infants might well have stemmed from a pagan ritual from pre-Christian times where children were subjected to a host of practices in order to protect them. I suggested that the symbolic cleansing of babies could have been linked with other practices people had, such as placing iron near or around the crib and drawing a protective circle on the floor so that evil spirits couldn’t harm them. I have no proof of that by the way, it’s just my imagination connecting a few fragments of pagan lore that I know about with the very murky beginnings of infant baptism that the church alludes to.
What is your experience of baptism? People in different faiths would obviously have a different ritual for infants, and I’m interested to know about those as well as how other Christians from different countries practice it. Is it something preserved for adults only where you are, or do you routinely have infant baptisms? Do you have any sort of “follow up” practice when children grow older? Are you a person with no faith? How do you “welcome” babies into the fold? Do you have an equivalent naming ceremony or is it something that just doesn’t matter to you? How far wide of the mark am I with my pagan/early Christian mythology theory??
I’m interested in all of your answers and your experiences whatever they are and wherever you are. Please drop me a line with your thoughts.