Baptism is for those who seek to be followers of Christ. Children are baptised on the condition that they are part of a believing family. A believing family is one that involves itself in the worship life of the church and perceives themselves to be followers of Jesus.
Is there a difference between Baptism and Christening?
People often speak of ‘christening’ and equate baptism with the naming of a child. Christening is an acceptable word but its literal meaning is the ‘Christ-ing’ of a person. It is the way that a person becomes a Christian. In the early church people who became Christians used to take on a name associated with the Christian community such as John, or Peter, Matthew or Mark, or in the case of women, a name such as Mary or Elizabeth. The new name expressed the new life and identity the person received in Christ. Baptism was never simply a naming ceremony.
What is baptism all about?
Just as an adult seeking baptism would only commit themselves to baptism if they believed and understood the nature and responsibility of the task so parents asking for baptism need to be responsible in their own faith and practice before asking for baptism for their children. The conditions for baptism of a child are the faith and commitment of the parents.
Where an ADULT is seeking baptism, it is desirable that confirmation should occur at the same time.
Preparation and timing will be at the discretion of the priest in consultation with the person requesting baptism.
What about baptism preparation?
There is a standard baptism preparation course which runs for six weeks.
How often do Baptisms occur?
Generally we plan three specific times for baptisms during the course of a year. Baptisms will always be conducted during one of the Sunday Eucharists – usually the 9.30 am.
We do consider other Sundays for baptisms where it suits a majority of candidates or where a group forms unrelated to those appointed Sundays. The baptisms will, however, always be limited to one Sunday a month.
When do the baptism courses run?
The courses are run in relation to the Sundays set aside for baptisms or when there is a group of people interested in baptism.
The venue and time of the baptism course is decided by the group. Generally we try to meet in the home of one of the group members and at a time convenient to the group.
What about Godparents?
Traditionally, when a boy was baptised the godparents consisted of two men and a woman, and when the child was a girl the godparents would be two women and one man. This generally is still the practice. The issue, however, is not gender or number of godparents. What is important is whether the godparents can fulfill the spiritual task that is before them. Often parents choose godparents who are family members or good friends but who are neither church goers or even nominally Christian. To ask such people to make the promises of godparent, even when one is most fond of those people, is quite unfair for there really is no way that they can fulfill the promises. Godparents should be baptised Churchgoing people. It is the intention that where possible godparents or sponsors should be communicants of the Anglican Church.
What happens if the godparents cannot be present?
Technically this is not a problem. Often godparents are either friends or family overseas. We simply ask someone to stand in as proxy at the service.
Is it possible to be baptised in another parish?
Yes. Sometimes we are requested to baptise children of families who are from other parishes. This is quite in order but we do need a letter from the rector of the parish from where they come. This is a matter of etiquette. A similar procedure would occur if you wanted your child baptised in another Anglican parish.
Admission to Communion and Confirmation
One of the more recent developments in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa is that children who have been baptised may be admitted to communion before confirmation. Through baptism children are members of the family of God and may, as any adult member, participate in the joy of the Eucharist.
This does not mean that confirmation falls away. Confirmation then becomes the individuals ‘confirming’ of their faith at an age and maturity when they can responsibly understand their discipleship and vocation.
The conditions for admission, laid down by the bishops of the CPSA are as follows: