Baptism is a big part of British life, it dates back to John the Baptist who baptised Jesus. Today it is one of the main ceremonies in the Church.

For many people this is the serious, slightly scary bit of being a godparent, but it doesn't need to be, baptism is very simple - it is a public declaration of following Jesus, either made by the individual, or for infants and children, made as promises on their behalf by parents and godparents. As a godparent it is a promise you make in front of God and the Church, so it is serious - but it need not be scary - it is simply a promise to help your godchild to build a relationship with Jesus.

This section explores the day of the Baptism, and what happens afterwards.

baptism: baptɪz(ə)m / The Christian religious rite of sprinkling water on to a person’s forehead or of immersing them in water, symbolizing purification or regeneration and admission to the Christian Church. In many denominations, baptism is performed on young children and is accompanied by name-giving. (Origin: Middle English: from Old French baptesme, via ecclesiastical Latin from ecclesiastical Greek baptismos 'ceremonial washing', from baptizein 'immerse, baptize'.) - OED

The Ceremony

Church of England / Methodist Church

Baptism and Christening are both common words, but Baptism is the more correct word - Christening would usually be used for infant baptism only. A brief overview of the process might be:

  1. Parents may be invited to a meeting with the priest beforehand, especially if not regular church-goers.

  2. The Baptism will usually take place during the Sunday morning service, though other times are possible.

  3. Priest, parents, godparents and child gather by the Church font.

  4. A series of questions are asked by the priest of the parents, godparents and the Church congregation.

  5. The sign of the cross is marked on the child's forehead and water is poured over the child.

  6. A candle is often lighted at this point.

  7. The child is welcomed into God's Church.

A service of thanksgiving for a child is offered as an alternative to infant baptism, allowing the child to choose whether or not to be baptised when older. It serves a similar purpose in welcoming the child into the Church, but omits the actual baptism ceremony.

In the Methodist Church, while broadly similar to the Anglican Church (Church of England) there is in addition a Church appointed godparent with a slightly different role - to keep in touch and provide a link between family and congregation.

Baptist Church

The Baptist Church chooses to baptise when someone is old enough to make that decision for themselves.

There is a service of dedication available. While there is no water baptism, much of the rest of the ceremony is similar, with promises being made by parents and godparents to support the child in their relationship with Jesus.

Roman Catholic Church

Baptism is very similar to the Church of England, though the child tends to be younger with parents being expected to have their baby baptised within its first few weeks.

The Party

A brief guide to the baptism or christening party.

A baptism is a time to welcome an infant or child into God's family - the Church. However in many families it is also an opportunity to introduce the child to their family as well, it might be the first time the godparents meet each other, and meet other members of the family. For many reasons it is a great opportunity for a party and to bring people together. Some things to consider:

Check with the Church for the baptism timings before you make any arrangements

  • If you are holding the baptism during the service then be aware that this can make the service longer than normal
  • If the baptism is being held separately then the Church may have specific times available

Food and refreshments should be offered

  • A simple approach would be to provide cake and drinks at Church after the service, especially if you are active members of the Church and wish to involve the whole congregation. This can be followed by a lunch at home for the godparents and immediate family.

  • A bigger group can be entertained simply with cake and drinks at home / in the local church or village hall.

  • If people have travelled longer distances then a simple buffet might be appropriate

  • It is traditional for a wedding cake tier to be saved for the first child's baptism (though this only works for fruit cake, carefully stored).

Check availability of godparents - they are needed for the baptism - then key family members.

A godparent might be chosen to offer a toast at the party - toasting the child, and family.

Baptism parties are not on the same scale as a wedding, so a slightly less formal approach is appropriate

Gifts are a normal part of baptisms and will often be thoughtful special items for the child. It is worth gently co-ordinating these though or the child is likely to end up with 3 bibles and 4 prayer books, all useful, but the duplication can be avoided. We have a gift section on this website where we have carefully selected a wide range of items which might be of interest.

Don't forget that your friends will have children - this is one party which does need to be child friendly.

The Future

A baptism is the start of relationships - with Jesus, and with the godparents, they are inter-linked.

Different Churches have different approaches, but generally there is a point in the child's future when they take the promises made on their behalf at baptism and make that promise for themselves.

Church of England - Confirmation

The person being confirmed has a sponsor, chosen by the candidate, while this could be a godparent, it doesn't have to be. There is only one sponsor at confirmation, even though there may have been a number of godparents.

Confirmation (often around the age of 13-18) is the traditional finishing point as a godparent - your spiritual job is done. However the personal relationship is likely to continue.

Roman Catholic Church - First Communion

First Communion is usually at around the age of 7-8 when the child is considered old enough to understand the significance of communion as sacrement. While there is no official role for the godparent, it is likely that as a godparent you would wish to attend.

Roman Catholic Church - Confirmation

The person being confirmed has a sponsor, chosen by the candidate, while this could be a godparent, it doesn't have to be. While there are usually two godparents at baptism there is only one sponsor at confirmation.

The candidate chooses their own name, either as baptised, or in addition.

Confirmation (often around the age of 13) is the traditional finishing point as a godparent - your spiritual job is done. However the personal relationship is likely to continue.

I have seven god children, five girls and two boys. I am good at remembering them at birthdays and Christmas - but actually there is no real handbook. I am not as religious now as I was when I was given the role (so maybe I should have been sacked), so I don't honestly think I have done much for their spiritual welfare, but I would definitely be there for them if they needed me.
Victoria Hislop - Telegraph