The meaning of Baptism
The Gospels tell us that Jesus himself was baptised, by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, and that Jesus commanded his disciples to go out into the world and baptise. Baptism is a sacrament for all those who wish to become his disciples. The Church welcomes to Baptism all who wish to make a declaration of faith in Jesus Christ, including infants and children whose parents and godparents make that declaration on their behalf. Jesus teaches his people that all who would enter his kingdom must be born again of water and the Spirit. Baptism is the sign of this new birth.
Three important ceremonies mark the process of adopting Christian faith in the Church in Wales. Baptism marks the beginning of the journey of Christian faith, which is affirmed by an individual at Confirmation when they make the promises of Baptism for themselves. All Christians are also invited to share in the Sacrament of Communion, when the Church obeys the command of Jesus to break bread and share wine, which is a sharing in the body and blood of Christ.
Parents and Godparents who bring children to be baptised promise to bring up their children in faith, sustain them by prayer, enable them to take their part in the worshipping and serving life of the Church and, in due course, to be ready to declare their own faith at Confirmation (by the Bishop). Those baptised as older children or adults may be baptised and confirmed in the same service.
However old the candidate is, baptism is about:
- turning away from darkness and sin towards Jesus Christ, in whom we find light and forgiveness;
- being washed in the waters of baptism as an outward sign of our being made new, born again by water and the Spirit;
- taking our place around the family table of the Church where Jesus nourishes us with the food of eternal life.
Baptism should normally take place in church during worship. Water is poured over the head of the candidate three times, in the Name of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Those who are older may be baptized by immersion in a body of water such as a baptismal pool. The act of baptism signifies our sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus. As he died and was buried, we go down into the water of baptism. As he rose from the dead, we come away from the water in his risen power, made new.
When children are baptized, their parents and godparents undertake certain responsibilities. For this reason parents and godparents are helped beforehand to understand their responsibilities. The local Church also has an important role in helping them to nurture their child in the Christian faith and in the new life which Baptism brings.
The Church baptizes children in the hope and trust that parents, godparents and the local church together will surround them with a living faith which will sustain them throughout their lives. The Church supports all baptized Christians, by teaching and encouraging them as they receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to become more like Jesus.
Proper preparation for baptism is essential. Parents and Godparents of younger children are encouraged to understand fully their responsibilities: to read the Bible, pray, and worship regularly so that their child may grow in the faith. Older children and adults who come to be baptised and confirmed are expected to participate in a preparation course, often with others. Members of the local church are to encourage and help all who become followers of Jesus. They may be present at all stages of this process, welcoming and embracing the newly baptised and confirmed in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ.