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Arranging a baptism

in the Athelney Benefice

What is baptism?

Baptism, christening… there’s no difference except the name. Some might suggest that “christening” has something of a “naming ceremony” about it, but the actual spiritual and theological meaning is exactly the same: to welcome and encourage a life and to commit to living a life of Christian discipleship.

Baptism is a time of initiation, but it continues beyond a “simple” initial moment. Baptism is a start, but the commitment it includes is something that continues onward through life.


Baptism is about celebration, thanksgiving and welcome. It is a celebration of the child or adult being baptised, a thanksgiving for their life and for all that God gives them and us and a welcome into the global family of The Church.

Through baptism we commit ourselves to follow Christ and worship God within the family of the church, locally and beyond.

The words we use

Baptism simply, this means ‘to immerse’ or ‘to plunge in’. In baptism we are washing away the old things. In some churches baptism involves a full immersion. At St John’s we use a font filled with water to wet a candidate’s head.

Godparents are especially important at the baptism of children. The declarations made at baptism are about promises and decisions that younger children may not be ready to make. Godparents are their representatives and, along with the parents, publicly speak of their commitment to help nurture children in a Christian way.

Sin and Repentance: At a few points in the service we talk of turning to Christ, and of rejecting evil and sin. Sin is the absence of the goodness of God. At baptism we publicly say that we will turn away from sin and therefore seek the goodness of God in all we do.

The Symbols

The baptism service is full of symbols, when one thing or action helps us think of some-thing more complex. The sign of the cross made with the oil of baptism is a symbol that the person being baptised belongs to God, that they live and grow as followers of Christ and of the Holy Spirit guiding and strengthening them day by day.

Water is poured into the font. We use water, an everyday and essential part of life and give thanks before using it to baptise in the name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This symbolic washing and renewal brings us into a new relationship with God and our fellow Christians. The newly baptised receive a candle to remind them of the Light of Christ. The candle lights our way as we journey on in life and with faith. Baptism is the start of a journey of faith. We give this candle to the candidate at the family communion service following the baptism to symbolise the welcome into the church, and to enable the whole church family to welcome the newly baptised.