Thank you for your enquiry about having your child christened or baptised. It shows that you recognise a spiritual dimension in your child’s future, or that it was part of your upbringing and you would like to continue the tradition.
Our general policy at Surfcoast is that there are no formal prerequisites for your child to be prepared for baptism but we would like you to understand what is happening, what your responsibilities are and how it can take place.
There’s a bit of reading in these few pages but we want to be clear about what we’re doing and be sure that this what you are wanting for your child and yourself. There may be other, less arduous options you would prefer to take up.
Why Get Baptised?
To give them their name properly?
- But children are properly named when their birth is registered. The ‘naming’ aspect of the service is where the title ‘Christening’ comes from. The child is being given a Christ–name, or Christian name which is added to the family name which comes from the parent’s family name (or a combination of their families’ names).
- Children will often be given two Christian names and, for some families, the second name will be chosen to honour a past member of the family. In some traditions, a child will take on further Christian names at various rites of passage in their life such as at Confirmation, at Ordination to Holy Orders, at Marriage and so on.
- For all that, you could have a civil Naming Ceremony for your child which would not involve any commitment on your part as parents. Civil Celebrants are quite happy to do such a Ceremony – costs range from $300 - $600.
To make sure they keep well?
- But Baptism is not a spiritual inoculation or insurance payment. I suspect that God is not impressed with parents and God-parents who make the Baptism Service promises dishonestly. Belonging to God’s family has certain fringe benefits in this life but they are incidental to the real benefits of being owned by God in Jesus Christ.
Because Grandmother is pressing to have them done?
- But you, as parents must give him his Christian upbringing. It is your faith which will count, so you must decide, whatever other people may wish.
- Parents will sometimes say that they don’t want to inflict religion on their child, so they avoid having their child baptised and prefer to leave it up to their child to decide when he is older. I suggest that, by not offering them a Christian upbringing, they are denying their child the opportunity to decide about anything. If you and they haven’t checked out Christianity, how can you make a decision about it?
To make sure they will go to Heaven if they die young?
- There is no evidence that God judges children on whether they have been baptised or not. Until they are ‘of age’ they live under the jurisdiction of their parents and the authority of their parents’ faith. If you belong to God so do your children, until they graduate to independence or adulthood. For many cultures that graduation takes place at 12 or 13, or as late as 18 or 21!
To thank God for their birth?
- A good thing to do. But there is a Service in the Anglican Prayerbook called ‘Thanksgiving for a Child’ (which is not the same as baptism) which does just that. If you would like to pursue that alternative it can easily be arranged - and you can have a party afterwards.
To give them a good start in life?
- Yes. But it would be pointless to make this start without following it with a Christian upbringing. Baptism can be explained as placing your child on the first step of God’s staircase – further steps will be taken as life progresses (Sunday School, Confirmation, Marriage, etc) but without God’s involvement any further in the life of your child, there will be no progress to the next step.
Baptism Stands for Forgiveness, New Birth & Adoption ...
It is a symbolic washing with water - a spiritual cleansing. None of us is perfect. We all need God’s forgiveness. No-one has to be taught to do wrong - you may have discovered already that your child knows how to be naughty. It is born in him, as it was in you and me. As we grew up we became cleverer at covering up things - we don’t necessarily grow better. And one day God will judge all of us.
So we all need God’s forgiveness. We can only find it through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross for us. The Apostle Peter tells us that Jesus ‘bore our sins’ on the Cross. Jesus calls us to admit our need of forgiveness, and receive it from him.
It is warmer in the land where the Jesus lived and the first Christians were baptised in open water. Coming out of the water symbolises a new start; a new birth, a new life - a spiritual life - life with the Holy Spirit of Jesus living in us. That life begins when we ask Jesus to forgive us and come into our lives. It’s wonderful to discover him as a real person, and learn how he can change our lives if we let him.
Without inviting God into our child’s life, they will obviously have an earthly family to belong to but baptism signifies their adoption into the ‘forever family’ of the God who created them.
It was probably not many years after the Lord Jesus’ life on earth that children began to be baptised. In the Bible we read on more than one occasion of whole households being baptised when the head of the family believed in Jesus.
Your child will need both to be taught about Jesus and to see what Christian faith means in action - especially in his parents and godparents’ lives. Christianity must be taught and caught. You are making a commitment to involve your child in a Christian upbringing.
What is a Christian Upbringing?
A Christian upbringing involves:
⎯ Churchgoing as a family
⎯ Teaching the children from the Bible, and later to read the bible for themselves
⎯ Praying with them and teaching them to pray
⎯ Showing what it means to live to Christian standards.
But must we go to Church?
Going to Church as a family is very important
⎯ To give praise and thanks to God, together
⎯ To pray to him, together
⎯ To learn more about him, together
⎯ To meet with other Christians
Children work out pretty quickly what matters to Mum and Dad so, dropping your child off at Sunday School while you go back home is not going to make sense to them, Church needs to be a family activity and there will be family services and inter-generational activities on the calendar, as well as men’s and women’s and teen activities. Your children will absorb your values and priorities virtually without anything being said.
If you do not go to church regularly already you probably will not start going regularly just because you promise and resolve to do so. It is not easy to replan the way you spend every Sunday - churchgoing means putting God first. For example, you will have less time, but still enough time, to repair the car, cook the lunch and tend the garden. It means asking your friends to come back later (or to come with you!) if they call when you are getting ready to go to Church.
Rather a lot of bother?
No - there is real joy in coming to know God for yourself.
If you do not already have God as a part of your daily life, we would be really happy to help you take that step. There has been more than one occasion when a child’s parents have been baptised at the same time as their child!
So, how do we do it?
If you have read this much and would like to proceed, then
1. You may use the Application Form linked to this page to let us know you are interested in Baptism for your child or children. Drop it in to the Church or, better still, put it on the Offertory Plate during Church on a Sunday!
2. You will be contacted to arrange a visit, at your home, to talk through the Baptism Service and to confirm the date for the Service. Baptisms take place during the normal service on a Sunday.
3. If you have any other questions you may ask them – there is no charge for the Baptism but you are welcome to give a voluntary amount when the Offering is taken during the service.
God bless & keep you at this significant time!
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