Baptism, or 'Christening' as it is sometimes called, is the way we make public our personal Christian commitment. Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan at the start of his ministry, and ever since, Christians have baptised new believers as the sign of their own commitment to personal Christian discipleship.
The symbolism is powerful. The person being baptised passes through the water of death; he or she dies to her old life lived apart from God, and is raised to a new life, to be lived in prayerful obedience to God. In response to this, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God forgives the person of all past wrong, and treats him or her as is he or she had never sinned.
After baptism, the person baptised is greeted by the members of the local Christian congregation, and welcomed into their fellowship. So an individual is always baptised into a local Christian congregation, but also into the world-wide fellowship of Christians of all (Trinitarian) denominations.
From the earliest times, Christians have baptised whole families, including children. Clearly, infants cannot make a personal commitment to Christian discipleship, so the Christian parents or parent, helped by 'Sponsors', or 'Godparents', make the promises on their behalf.
The Parents and Godparents promise to bring the Child up in a Christian home, to take part in Christian worship on a regular basis, and when the child is old enough, to bring him or her to the Bishop so that the child can 'Confirm' for him or her self the promises of personal Christian commitment that were made on his or her behalf at baptism.
Baptisms should normally take place in the parish where the person being baptised lives. Adults seeking baptism, or parents seeking baptism for their children, should make direct contact with the Church of England minister of that parish.
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© Diocese of Oxford, 2010
Published on: 15/02/2011