A brief outline of vocabulary you might come across and what it means.

Adult Baptism

The practice of baptising an adult. This is either because the Church has a preference for adult baptisms, (maybe offering dedications for children), or because the adult has become a Christian at an older age and not been pabtised previously. As the adult is capable of making the decisions and promises for themselves, they would generally not have Godparents.


A worldwide branch of the Protestant (non Roman Catholic) Church. The head of the Anglican Commmunion is currently the incumbent Archibishop of Canterbury


A member of the clergy responsible for a groups of bishops / dioceses - generally the top job in the church


Atheist is better understood as 'a-theist' i.e. someone who believes in the absence ('a') of a God (theist believes in a God). An athiest believes that no God exists.


Baptism is the ceremony (or Sacrament) which marks the joining of the Church. Though it is seen by some as the entry for membership of the organisation, in fact it has nothing to do with that, but is the time at which promises are made by the inidividual (adult) or on their behalf (infant) about their beliefs / how they want to live their life following Jesus Christ. Parents / Godparents / etc. make matching and supporting promises about how they will help raise the child if an infant.

A Baptism is not a naming ceremony and has no legal significance relating to the name of the child.


The Baptist Church is a branch of the Protestant Church partly distinguished by the fact that they will only baptise those old enough to make the decision for themselves. So they do not offer Infant Baptism, offering Dedication instead where adults can make promises to bring the child up in the Christian Faith. Godparents are a part of this process.

Alt. words: Baptism Pool

A part of the church building specifically set aside for baptism. In today's churches, the Baptists and some Anglicans practice full-immersion which requires a 'pool' for the baptism - this can be referred to as the baptism pool or baptistry.


The Bible is the word used for the Holy Scriptures - the book used by the Church as the guide to how to live as a Christian, believed to be the Word of God.


Senior church official who runs an area of churches known as a Diocese.


Christening and Baptism are often used interchangeably, however technically the Christening is the service and the Baptism is the ceremony which happens within the service, (rather like a marriage takes place within a wedding service). Common usage would tend to use Christening for infants and perhaps more formal services - and Baptism for any age / less formal services. On this website, we tend to use Baptism as a slightly easier word to understand.


Anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, believes that He died for them on the cross, and that He is the Son of God. Generally a Christian will be a member of a Church (Roman Catholic / Protestant / Anglican / Baptist / methodist / Free Church / etc.) but Church membership doesn't make someone a Christian - it is a personal faith with God, not membership of an organisation.


A group of people with the same (Christian) beliefs. Also the building in which they meet / worship.

Church of England
Alt. words: CofE

The established or 'official' Church in England. A part of the Anglican / Protestant Church worldwide. The Church of England has church parishes covering the whole country. If you are not a member of any Church then it is most likely that if you were asked to be a Godparent, that it would be in the Church of England.

Alt. words: Eucharist

A Church service with bread and wine following on from the Last Supper in the Bible. It is unlikely to take place during the same service as an Infant Baptism, however it will be a big part of later services for the godchild - either at First Communion (Roman Catholic church), or after Confirmation (Anglican) - both services when the child proclaims their own personal faith. Adult Baptism in the Baptist church, or as a new member of another Church is likely to have communion as well. Declaring your own personal faith is seen as the main step before being allowed to take Communion.


A ceremony where the baby is dedicated to God and welcomed into the Church, used where Infant Baptism is not practised. The Baptist Church is the main user of Dedication services, but there is also now a Dedication service available in the Anglican Church. Godparents are included in the service.


All that is not of God. If God is the creator of all that is good, anything that does not come from God / comes from Satan is considered by Christians to be bad or evil. A key part of a Baptism is that those who are Parents and Godparents will make promises to God including renouncing Satan / the Devil and all that is Evil.


Faith = belief. In the Christian context it refers to a belief in God, and the outcome of that belief - i.e. choosing to follow Jesus Christ and live as a Christian. It is the basis for a personal relationship with God. Most Churches will expect Godparents to have a personal faith - usually evidenced by being baptised themselves and being members of a Church. However, the requirements will vary from church to church.

First Communion

The formal first time when a child takes Communion at their Church. Predominantly a Roman Catholic practice it is set at the 'age of reason' or the point when a child is considered old enough to understand Communion. Currently this is set at 7 years old. For a Godparent supporting their godchild in their Christian faith, this is a major occasion.


A piece of furniture containing a bowl of water which is used for the Baptism. In many churches this will be a fixed item of furniture in the church and people gather around for the Baptism. More recently and in more informal settings a simple bowl of water on a table may be used.

Free Church
Alt. words: Independent Church

Generally sitting outside the organisational structure of one of the established Churches, a free church tends to be self-managing and able to set its own doctrine. Groups of free churches may have oversight from within that group.

Full Immersion

A method of Baptism where the baby, child or adult is fully submerged in water. babies may be immersed in a font, but for children or adults a pool or baptistry is required. There is also a practice where full immersion baptism can take place in rivers or lakes.


The supreme being who created and rules the world.


A Godparent is someone who has an adult role in a child's life. Originally a religious role to pray for and support the child in it's faith it has been adopted as a secular terma as well. Now often seen as a 'significant' adult in the child's life - someone who supports the parents in the child's upbringining. Every Godparent will have a slightly different role, generally defined by them and the parents jointly. The Godparent has a role in the Baptism service and will be asked to make declarations of a Christian nature in how they will support the child.

Guide Parents

A humanist version of a Godparent - recognising the same role in the child's life, and with a similar expectation of being there to help raise the child (giving them guidance) as humanists don't believe in God there is more value in a description of a 'guide' parent than a 'God' parent.


Of God - anything that is from or of God is said to be Holy.

Holy Spirit

One of the three forms of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Seen in the bible as a dove who came down from heaven onto Jesus, and as tongues of fire on the disciples at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is the form of God present on earth once Jesus went back up to Heaven, present inside all those who follow Jesus (Christians).


Someone who generally doesn't believe in or accept a God, but believes strongly in the value of good over evil and in the over-riding value of humans. Likely to have many of the same ethical and moral views as a Christian, but with no God central to their beliefs. Humanists may well have a naming ceremony where they appoint 'guide-parents' as a similar role to Godparents, but specifically excluding God.

Infant Baptism

The practice of baptising an infant or child who doesn't make the decision for themselves. Promises are made by Parents and Godparents regarding how they will raise the child to develop their own faith. Some Churches do not believe in Infant Baptism, only accepting baptism at an age where the individual can make the decision themselves. Those churches may offer Dedication as an alternative service where similar promises can be made. Where infant baptism is a part of the Church, then First Communion (Roman Catholic) and Confirmation (Anglican) are services where the individual is older and can make the decision for themselves - at that point they confirm the promises made on their behalf as an infant.

Jesus Christ
Alt. words: Christ | Jesus

Jesus Christ - son of God who was born as a baby (celebrated at Christmas) and who preached to those around him, and who was then killed by the Romans on the cross. He died and three days later he rose again - having defeated Satan. He is now in Heaven where he reigns sitting at the right hand of God the father. Jesus is the core part of the Christian faith which a Godparent agrees to and in which they support their godchild.


A branch of the Protestant Church (non Roman Catholics) founded by John Wesley

Naming Ceremony

Often a non-religious version of a baptism such as those performed by humanists who have 'guide parents' instead of Godparents. Some mainstream religions do have naming ceremonies such as Hinduism, however the mainstream Christian Church does not.


Head of the Roman Catholic church


Conversation with God. It can either be formal and structured (e.g. the Lord's Prayer, or prayers in Church) or it can be simply a conversation between an individual and God

Roman Catholic
Alt. words: Catholic

The Church based in Rome - whose head is the Pope. Members of the Church are also referred to as Catholics


An outward sign of something special and holy. Roman Catholics, the Orthodox Church and Anglicans believe in Baptism, Eucahrist (Holy Communion), Confirmation, Holy Orders, Forgiveness of Sins, Annointing of the Sick and Marriage - though different churches will have their own emphasis.

Alt. words: Devil

Satan is the common Christian name for the Devil. Seen in the Bible as a fallen Angel who wished to challenge God. The source of all Evil, Jesus Christ battles Satan after dying on the cross, and wins - allowing those who believe in Jesus to be forgiven their sin and have a relationship with God. A key part of a Baptism is that those who are Parents and Godparents will make promises to God including renouncing Satan / the Devil and all that is Evil.


Another word for Jesus Christ, used to recgonise that he saved people from tehir sins by dying on the cross.


Anything that is not religious. While being a Godparent is generally accepted as a religious role (hence the word God in it), there is a strong secular use of the role. While this website acknowledges the Christian origins of the role, there is recognitionn of the secular use, and support for those in that position. The word Godparent does now have a secular and or religious meaning...


Doing something wrong that separates you from God


Sponsor is often used to mean Godparent - originally from the need for a sponsor to join the early Church (being rebels and underground. they needed to trust new members, so members were sponsored by a current member). Used more in the Roman Catholic Church than other Churches. It is also used within humanist ceremonies where it conveys the requirement without including God in the name.


A Church of England service which is more low key than a Baptism. A service of thanksgiving is an opportunity to bring the child to God and thank Him for the child's life. It is not a Baptism, but for those who either prefer baptism to be for adults (some parts of the church), or who may be have a less strong faith and don't want to make certain promises to God, then this provides an opportunity to still hold a service to mark the birth of the child. In the Church of England this service is more flexible in terms of when it can be held, and it can be held privately.


A believer in God / a God / many Gods. Monotheism is the belief in solely one God (Christianity / Judaism / Islam / etc.) Poly-theism is the belief in many Gods (Hinduism etc.)


A phrase to describe the three parts of God - God the Father / God the Son (Jesus Christ) / God the Holy Spirit.

Alt. words: Father | Minister | Parson | Pastor | Priest

Person who runs the church, usually trained and appointed by the church. In the Roman Catholic church will be male, otherwise can be male or female. They will be the person authorised to carry out the baptism.

Alt. words: Promises

Promises made in front of God. The Baptism service will require the Parents and Godparents to make vows regarding their own faith and how they will support the child in it's faith.

There are good godparents and bad godparents. The good ones understand that they must make themselves available to that child, encourage him or her, and keep in touch regularly. They love the child. The bad godparent is casual and unhelpful.
Canon Colin Scott-Dempster - Telegraph