Baptism: An Enquirer’s Guide

Baptism at St Nicholas Minster

This is an explanation of our approach to baptism here at St Nicholas Minster. The parish council is supportive of this direction. I look forward to exploring this with you and your family and would welcome your comments and thoughts on all of this.

This is written primarily to help those of you enquiring about baptisms who are currently not regular members of our church community. There are many confusions and differing expectations around baptism and this is written to help clarify it for you. It is also written to describe how we as a Minster parish understand it and our commitment to you and your children.

Thank you for enquiring...

Firstly, it is great that you are enquiring about baptism for your child. Jesus was known for welcoming children into a relationship with Him and as a church, we delight in the children and families who bring so much to our life as a community.

We are on a journey together exploring how we can best support one another in our Christian lives through each age and stage. We are discussing how our gatherings can work well for everyone. Perhaps you will become part of that conversation?

Many of us are staggered by the miracle of conception and birth and for some, it is a beginning of a renewed awareness of both the wonder of creation in which we share but also the obligations and responsibilities of parenthood.

For many of us thankfulness wells up and we rightly want to celebrate the gift of our child with family and friends. Perhaps for some, it is a time of spiritual reawakening. Being thankful some of us are aware of the need for help in this incredible role and wonder perhaps for the first time if God can be there for us.

As Christians, we have discovered that God really is there for us in all of life's circumstances and so we would want to encourage you in exploring these thoughts further. Considering baptism is a really positive way of doing so.

As an Anglican church in the diocese of Bunbury, we offer two responses to all of this and these are distinct and carry different commitments.

In this booklet, I am writing primarily about the baptism of children too young to profess their own faith and trust in Jesus. I have written a separate booklet entitled 'Why do Anglicans Baptise Infants' that gives a fuller explanation on this.

A God of Grace...

Firstly, God is a God of grace. What is grace? Jesus has acted on our behalf to make possible a relationship with God that rests on His work, not our own, His sacrifice, not our own.

In trusting Him we are welcomed into God's family and are made new through the Holy Spirit. What is asked of us is trust or faith in Him. Baptism is recognition of this and a visible means of expressing it.

However, given infants cannot respond in faith in this why where does that leave them before they are old enough to do so?

An Invitation...

The Anglican Church's answer is that they are in God's grace until such time as they have the understanding and maturity to choose to accept or walk away from Jesus.

Therefore, the baptism of an infant is an invitation into God's grace. The elements of faith and trust in Jesus are carried by the parents and Godparents with a clear commitment to assist the child in every way possible to come to know and trust Jesus for themselves.

A Commitment...

As such, it makes little sense to pursue baptism if that committed relationship is not a reality or the parents and Godparents.

Baptism is carried out in community. The church community also commits to support the parents and child. Consequently, it makes little sense to baptise if there is no desire or commitment to be part of the community in an ongoing way.

In the baptism service, there are clear commitments on the child's behalf. A decision to turn away from evil and towards Jesus, a clear profession of the Christian faith and a firm undertaking to sharing community life as a means of encouragement and growth.

The church itself commits to you and your family to support you in all of this. In effect, it is expressing the commitments of a disciple of Jesus.

Relational, Not Just Ceremonial...

Often parents approaching us about baptism are not disciples of Jesus. We think it's great you are enquiring. However, given the above commitments, both you and we are asked to take this seriously.

So we would want to thoroughly explore the meaning and purpose of baptism with you and this cannot be rushed if it is new or unfamilliar. We would want to get to know you are for you to get to know us given we are making commitments to one another.

Baptism is more like a wedding in that it is all about relationships and mutual commitments. It is being adopted into God's family through a relationship with Jesus.

It makes no sense to go through the motions and then walk away in the same way it makes no sense to join an AFL or soccer club and then never attend training or matches as player or supporter.

Because we take it seriously we have proposed limiting baptisms to three times a year where we really make a big thing of it. These are glorious celebrations for us.

The baptism liturgy is the key part of our time together and we often share a meal after the service for those who want to stay in celebration.

Are You Prepared to Explore Further?

So if you would like to explore the baptism with us we look forward to spending time with you considering the service and its meaning and commitments in depth and considering how this might be lived out.

That exploration would entail looking at some videos about the Christian faith drawn from our Alpha course and discussion about the service itself.

The decision to go forward with baptism remains yours. We want to support you in making an informed decision about something so important.

Reading this you may think I cannot see that happening. Is there alternative and would I want to explore that? As a community, we understand that and yes there is an alternative!