Baptism at St Nicholas
At St Nicholas Church, Southfleet, we follow the Great Commission of Jesus which he gave to his disciples just before he returned to the Father in Heaven. He said: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 28:18 – 20)
Baptism is the ceremony by which a person, having made a commitment to be a follower of Jesus Christ, and having shown a willingness to be a habitual worshipper, is received into membership of the church. It only happens once in a person’s life and it stands for ever – baptism cannot be undone.
The church refers to baptism as a sacrament, which means that it is an action that we do or see that helps us to understand what God is doing in our lives. It consists of three parts:
- The part that God is doing.
- The part that happens in the heart of the person being baptised.
- The part that we see happening.
All three parts together make baptism a sacrament.
What is the part that God does?
God loves each one of us with a love that far exceeds anything we as humans can understand. Whether we acknowledge this or not God still loves and this love does not depend on whether we love God back or not. God does however want us to love him back “with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength,” but he knows that we are not able to do this in our own strength, so he sent Jesus, who is the Son of God to show us how to do this and to make it possible.
When we make the decision to love God and make space for his love in our lives, he sends the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us. In baptism we trust God do this and to transform the life of the person being baptised into what God wants it to be.
What is the part of the person being baptised?
The person being baptised has to want God to change their life, and has to be willing to give up all the things that are bad for them, and to take on all the things that are good for their life as a disciple of Jesus.
Before coming for baptism the person should have prayed a prayer which contains the following elements (which need not be said in exactly these words):
Heavenly Father, I know that you are the Creator and King of the Universe, and that you created me to be your child. I know that I have not lived to the kind of life you want me to live. (Sometimes it may be appropriate to actually be quite specific) I am sorry for all the things I have done wrong; I want to change my life and be more like you. Please forgive me and help me to change. Lord please send your Holy Spirit to fill my life so that I can be a child of God.
Thank You. I pray this in the name of Jesus, Your Son, our Lord, Amen
The person should also have made some progress on the path to living out the Christian lifestyle, which includes the following:
- Reading the Bible and coming before God in personal prayer daily.
- Taking part in the corporate worship of the Church week by week, and receiving Holy Communion regularly.
- Following the example of Jesus in daily life.
- Speaking openly about Jesus, as one’s own personal Saviour.
- Upholding Christian standards in marriage.
- Living a life that is marked with simplicity and self-denial.
- Giving money for the work of the church and working seriously towards tithing.
- Giving of personal service to the church and community.
What happens at a Baptism?
There are three key participants at a baptism service:
- The Parish Priest – whose function is to represent God in the service
- The person who is being baptised
- The congregation – who represent the whole church.
The service of baptism includes the following specific elements: (The parts in bold are the responses to the words of the priest)
A commitment by the congregation to welcome the new member
People of God, will you welcome these candidates and uphold them in their new life in Christ?
With the help of God, we will.
A Public Declaration of Faith by the person being baptised
In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:
Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.
A Declaration of God’s love and forgiveness by the priest and encouragement by the congregation
May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness, restore in you the image of his glory, and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ.
Christ claims you for his own.
Receive the sign of his cross.
Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ
against sin, the world and the devil,
and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life.
The baptism where the minister dips the candidate into the water or pours water on the candidate
N, I baptize you
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.
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.
Putting it all Together
So anyone who comes for baptism must take God seriously, otherwise they would not be there. They need to be aware that they are making these declarations, in the presence of God and of witnesses, and that they will be judged on their response to their baptism by God.
People coming for baptism need to also take their membership of the church seriously and work seriously to actively living out their Christian lifestyle, together with other members of the Church
Baptism is not only a momentary experience, but it is the start of a life-long journey with Jesus. Everyone who has been baptised is called upon to reflect the glory of the Lord as they are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not always easy, but we can do it through the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of Jesus, his Church and the world which he loves.
Baptism of Infants
Everything that has been written so far has assumed that the person being baptised can speak for themselves. In the early church where people came to faith as adults from a position of no faith, or from following other religions, this was the norm. In some cases entire families came to faith together. Later when children were born to adults who were both baptised and living out the Christian lifestyle; the children were brought for baptism and the custom of infant baptism eventually became the norm in Western society.
It is the practice of the Church of England to baptise infants brought by parents who undertake, together with the Church, to bring up their children in the Christian faith. It must be made absolutely clear that this practice will only make sense if both parents are themselves baptised and are already living the Christian lifestyle, before they bring their child to be baptised. This is extremely important as the service of baptism of infants includes a commitment on their part to bring their child up in the Christian faith, within the family of the Church.
Some of the items of the Christian lifestyle, are personal and some are social and corporate. The following social and corporate requirements are set for parents who wish to bring infants for baptism before they are not yet able to answer for themselves:
- They must have attended church habitually for a minimum period of 6 months. Habitually means at least every second week on average.
- They must both be baptised and if not already confirmed must have made a commitment to be confirmed themselves. We cannot hope to teach our children something which we do not know ourselves, and we need to be confirmed to receive Holy Communion regularly
- They must be married to each other. We cannot uphold Christian standards in marriage when we are not living them out for ourselves.
Godparents for children must also meet these minimum requirements and in addition must already be confirmed.
- St Nicholas Church
- Church Street
- DA13 9NR