Baptism is a sacramental rite, in which a person pledges their allegiance to God through Jesus Christ, and rejects everything which is not of God.
In the ceremony of baptism, part of the body, normally the forehead, is bathed with water. The symbolism behind this washing of the outside of the body is that the person baptised is being washed clean of their sins. There's no upper or lower age limit on baptism in the Church of England, and just as Christian faith is open to all, so everyone is welcome to come for baptism.
Baptism of either adults or children is a time of celebration not only for the families and friends of those being baptised, but also for the Church, as the people welcome a new member of God's family into their midst.
When adults, or those old enough to make their own declarations of faith, are baptised, they make a public confession of that faith in God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) They repent, reject evil and are symbolically washed clean of their sins. In some churches, this can take the form of being fully immersed in water, although the more usual Anglican practice is for water to be poured over the forehead, as in infant baptism.
There is a long Christian tradition of baptising infants and children. During infant baptism the parents of the child and people appointed to be Godparents (friends or relatives) are asked to make promises to God about how the child will be bought up. The people of the church are also asked to make promises, so that they can support the family in bringing up the child to know Christ. Rather than full immersion, the priest will wet the head of the baby or child and make the sign of the cross upon it.
A service of thanksgiving
Sometimes families decide to participate in a service of thanksgiving for their child. Baptism may follow later, perhaps when the child is old enough to decide if he/she wishes to be baptised.
Find out more?
If you would like to know more about giving thanks for the birth of a child, or about infant or adult baptism, please contact your local Church. You can also find more information from the Church of England's main website.
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