“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5
At Beacon Church we think that baptism is both an exciting and important event in the spiritual life of any person, whatever their age. Baptism was taught and practiced by Jesus and also by the early church as a way of expressing outwardly something deeply spiritual going on inside someone. Beacon Church joyfully practices the christening and baptism of people of all ages: whether they are babies, children, young adults or older adults. We recognise that God declares that those being baptised are becoming part of his family, the Church. Primarily, baptism is not about us making a vow to God, it is about God making a promise to us. This is important to God and it is therefore important to us.
Therefore, because it is important, we want to make sure that when we baptise someone the person, or their parents/carers, make the decision to be baptised with a full understanding of what that means and the promises and declarations that they are making. We also recognise that baptism only really makes sense if the person being baptised actually becomes a member of the church family, in practice rather than just through saying the right words. Therefore, this policy sets out how we, as a church, have decided to seek a way to encourage people to explore their faith in Jesus Christ before they, or their children, are baptised at Beacon Church.
Firstly, we recognise that baptism is not appropriate for, or desired by, everyone. Therefore, we will also offer an alternative way of marking the beginning of a journey of faith; such as a service of thanksgiving for a new child.
Secondly, anyone who contacts Beacon Church about a baptism will initially meet with the minister. At that stage, the minister will take them through the words of the baptism service and point out the promises and declarations that will be made. This is so that the person, or parents/carers, are fully aware of the deep promises that they will be making and God’s expectation that they will be people of their word. It will be explained that baptism is about becoming part of a wider community and about becoming part of God’s family. However, baptism is also about a deep spiritual decision to accept Jesus’ offer of salvation from our sins. In doing so we die to our old lives and are reborn through the Holy Spirit into a new life with God, from which we will never die and in which we are learning, on a daily basis, to become free from our past as we walk into deeper relationship with God through Jesus.
Thirdly, although we do not want to place a barrier in the way of baptism, we do want to give time for a person, or parents/carers, to reflect upon their decision. We also want to allow opportunity for them to get to know the church family at Beacon Church and for us to get to know them given that, as a church, we will be promising to love and support them in the future. Therefore, although there is no ‘set period’ or ‘number of attendances’ the person or parents will be invited to get involved in church life, if not already, whether on a Sunday or through the small groups or The Alpha Course during the week. Although it is recognised that Sunday’s and evenings are not always convenient times, baptism is a deep commitment and needs to be treated as such if we are to take it seriously. It will then be a matter for the discretion of the minister to set a date when, following prayer, it seems that God is calling the person to be baptised. Baptism will usually take place during Sunday morning worship, unless there are exceptional reasons to do otherwise, on the basis that it is good for the church family to be there.
Fourthly, the Godparents play an important role in the christening of a child. The parents/carers should consider who they ask carefully. The decision should be based upon the Godparents’ willingness and ability to make solemn vows and declarations in front of God and the whole church to encourage the child in their Christian faith and to pray for them. Godparents should not be chosen based upon a feeling of obligation or expectation. We will ask that the minister can meet the godparents before the christening, preferably in person but potentially on Zoom if they live further away, so as to explain what will happen and to make sure that they are happy to make the deep promises that are required of them to be accepted as godparents. The godparents will also be invited to come to Sunday morning worship at some point before the christening so we can all get to know each other a bit more as well.
Fifthly, the commitment is not at all one way. As a church, we make a deep commitment to the person being baptised to get to know them and their family, as well as to support and love them as they journey with Jesus Christ. As a church, therefore, we will seek, at every stage, to welcome the person being baptised, as well as their family and friends, and to lovingly support them in their decision. Thereafter, we commit to helping them to nurture their faith as disciples of Jesus and to encourage them to become faithful and faith-filled Christians. We will treat them as fully fledged church family members, whatever their age, and offer love and support to them in practical ways too, when it is needed and desired by them.
Finally, as a Church of England and Methodist Church we are governed by certain rules. Although the above does not conflict with those rules, there may be occasions where particular situations mean that different issues arise. When that happens, at present we will follow the rules set down by the Church of England. Importantly though, we will do so in a way that is hopefully felt to be as sensitive and loving as we, being God’s children, have found our heavenly father to be towards us.
Agreed by the Beacon Church Ecumenical Church Council on 11 July 2023.