Baptism / Christening
Baptism or Christening?
If you are thinking about having yourself or your child Christened or Baptised at Penshurst Anglican Church, please consider the following. There has been a lot of confusion over the years surrounding these two terms Christening and Baptism. It’s important that these terms be clarified for you so that you can be sure in your own minds as to what sort of service you want for yourself or your child.
As the word Baptism implies, this ceremony involves the use of water. Most importantly, it is a sacrament of the church. That is, it was commanded by Jesus to be administered only to those who truly desire to become His disciples. A disciple is a person who wants to fully integrate into the life and fellowship of the local church, taking on all the responsibilities and benefits of membership. (Jesus said to His disciples, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.) A child is included in baptism on the basis of the parents’ commitment to church membership.
It is, therefore, administered only to committed Christian believers and their children as a public testimony to their commitment to Christ and membership in His church. In fact, water is used to symbolise a person’s willingness to die to themselves and live as a member of Christ’s resurrected community, the church, in an earnest desire to be transformed by His Spirit (see Romans 6:3-14).
Requirements: there are two forms of baptism, one for adults and another for children. The requirements differ according to the form.
Adult baptism: the baptism of an adult is the sign of that person’s repentance and conversion to Christ, and willingness to engage in the on-going process of becoming His disciple. It is only valid if the adult displays a sincere commitment to, and regular membership of, the local church community.
Infant baptism: the baptism of a child is only done when it is obvious that the parents are committed Christian believers and are regular members of the local church.
Venue: for the above reasons, the local church is always the preferred place for baptism. Another option is a place where the entire church can be present (swimming pool, beach, etc.). Indeed, baptism only makes sense in the context of the gathered church community.
Ceremony: we always build the baptism service around the structures given to us in An Australian Prayer Book (second form). This gives the parents or adult baptism candidate an opportunity to make public confessions of their faith in Christ as well as an opportunity for the local church congregation to make public responses.
A christening, as the word suggests, is a special service whereby we celebrate the child’s life and dedicate him/her to Christ. In the old days, it was also the time when the child’s Christian name would be announced. The focus is chiefly on prayers for the child and the parents.
As the senior pastor at PAC, I would like to revive this ancient ritual and give it its due place in our church. I hope that this service of Christening can be open to all people who wish to make some statement of faith in the Christian God but who, for personal reasons, may wish to remain un-committed to membership in our local church. In other words, I want to offer everyone an opportunity to be embraced by the love of God in Christ, to be encouraged in a greater understanding of that love, yet without the pressure to join our church community.
Requirements: parents should be believers themselves or at least positively inclined towards the Christian faith. They should be prepared to make promises concerning the child’s Christian upbringing. Godparents are an important part of the ceremony and should have, at the very least, some elemental faith in God.
Venue: a Christening can be held anywhere, with a focus on the gathering of family and friends.
Ceremony: the main aspects of the ceremony include:
* the reading and explanation of a short but meaningful passage of the Scriptures,
* an expression of the dreams of the parents for their child (why they chose the child’s name, etc.),
* a simple ceremony of anointing the child with oil as an act of dedication, and
* a time of prayer for child, parents and godparents.
I hope these explanations make it easier for you to decide for yourself what it is you really desire for your child and for yourself.
Please feel free to contact PAC (by phone, or online) if you need any more information, or would like to talk to us about arranging a christening or baptism, for yourself or your child.