One of the ways I serve my church is to be involved with families who bring their children for baptism. My role is twofold: first there is the administration side of things – have they filled in the application form? Have I booked a priest? Have I got certificates ready? – and so on. But for me, the other bit of my role is the best bit and that’s when we do the baptism preparation session together.
At the session, we bring together several families who are asking for baptisms and we have some activities and discussions around the different bits of faith and what it means to be baptised. Locally, here in North Manchester, it is more common for families to bring children to be Christened, and to be honest, even though I know there is a difference between being Baptised and being Christened, I don’t think I know enough about it to be able to explain it or argue about it!
So to make life easier, when I talk about “baptism” I also mean “Christening” and when I talk about “Christening” I also mean “baptism”. For now, at least. Wait until I’m further into my training and I might be able to split them and explain them better than I can now.
There is going to be a session of baptism preparation tomorrow evening, and we are going to be running out our “new and improved” version, which Hils (our curate) and myself have been working on. We have an icebreaker activity and some discussion activities before we get to the real crux of what we’re there for and that is the discussion and explanation about what the baptism service entails.
For babies and infants, this is the bit that parents do on their behalf, but for older children and adults they do this bit for themselves. And that is where they are asked about rejecting certain things and turning towards Christ, before they are dipped in the water and blessed.
I am always moved by this part of both the preparation and the baptism service itself. At the preparation, there is a moment of hush when parents think about what it is they are turning away from, and to whom they turn and there is a palpable awe in the air which is similar to the moment of baptism itself in church. It is a real sacramental moment, where God makes himself known in our presence and where his glory is revealed. It is fascinating to hear how the different families have arrived at this particular point, but the moment of baptism is always something special, wondrous and touching in so many ways.
I wonder what your experience of baptism is. Do you believe in it, or is it just another thing that we do with children along with the MMR jab to protect them in childhood? Have you been “done” yourself, or is it something you have never considered or thought about? What about the practices where you are in the world? In the Church of England, it is common for the font in churches to be used in baptism, but now and again, full immersion baptisms are done in small pools or even natural waters such as rivers or lakes too. How is it done where you live?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment below.