There are some people who grow up in the Church because they have been baptised as children and brought up in a Christian family.
That is not always the case today. Increasingly older people - from teenagers to great grandparents - are making their own decision to join the People of God – His Church.
For some people this comes as a sudden conversion experience. For others, a curiosity about God or about Jesus grows into an unfolding awareness of his presence and a conviction that some sort of personal commitment is needed. They feel the need to express this by joining a worshipping community of the Church.
Some people may follow a slightly different path. They get involved with their friends or their children in the social activities of their local church without having much interest in what the Church is really about. They enjoy the friendship of Christian people and get interested in the Church for its own sake. Gradually, they, too, want to belong.
If you find yourself in this position, what should you do?
How do I begin?
First of all talk to your Christian friends or to Christians you know and trust. Go to church - with a friend if possible - and choose the main Sunday service. At All Saints Church, the congregation gathers for a cup of tea or coffee afterwards and new arrivals are most welcomed. This is a chance to meet other members of the congregation and to meet informally with the clergy.
There are a lot of books about the Christian faith and the Church. There is a short official summary called The Revised Catechism, published as a small booklet. You will find other useful books on church bookstalls which may be helpful.
Were you baptised?
Many people were baptised (christened) as a baby but have had little contact with the Church since then. Baptism is, nevertheless, permanent and cannot be cancelled or repeated. So, if you were baptised as a baby, in whatever church that took place, you are still baptised and you cannot be ‘done’ again.
Some people are unsure whether they have been baptised or not. It is important to find out from parents or older relatives and to discover where it took place, because you may need to get a copy of your baptismal certificate.
From another denomination?
If you are a Christian from another denomination and feel drawn towards joining the Church of England, the way this is done will depend partly on your present denomination.
If you have been baptised, and confirmed by a bishop, in another denomination then, after a period of preparation, you will be received into the Church of England, probably by a bishop during a confirmation service. If you have not been confirmed, or even baptised, then you will be prepared for this along with other candidates.
If you have not been baptised, that is the place to start.
In the early days of the Church, new Christians were often baptised at Easter. After a course of instruction in the faith, they publicly entered into this new life with Christ. They repented of their sins, were assured of God's forgiveness and were baptised, often in a local river. This was a symbol that they had died to their old life and, born afresh, been given a share in the Holy Spirit who came on Jesus at his baptism and, after his resurrection, was given to his disciples.
Those who joined the Church were not only baptised with water: the bishop also laid his hands on them in blessing, what we now call Confirmation. Their receiving Holy Communion completed admission to the full life of the Church for the first time.
Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion still form the pattern today.
If you begin to feel you want to be received into the Church, discuss it with Fr Steve. He will probably suggest that you be prepared for baptism and confirmation at the same time and that you join a course of training about the Faith. This is an informal course, and usually one for adults and one for young people. Sometimes, adult candidates are prepared individually.
You will normally be confirmed at the same service in which you are baptised which takes place at the font, where water will be poured over your head. You will be asked to make the promises of baptism, repenting of your sins and turning to Christ. You must declare before God that you accept the Christian faith. The priest who baptises you will call you by your name and then use the words based on Holy Scripture: 'I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.'
The baptism of adults is normally followed immediately by Confirmation and First Communion.
People who have been baptised already may be confirmed provided they are old enough to renew for themselves the promises made on their behalf at their baptism by their parents and godparents. It is usual for people only to be admitted to Holy Communion once they have made that affirmation of faith and have been Confirmed by the Bishop.
Confirmation usually takes place at the Eucharist at which the bishop presides. He will use the opportunity of the sermon to talk to the candidates about the responsibilities of adult Christian life and they will then make their public profession of faith. Any unbaptised candidates are baptised and the bishop prays that the Holy Spirit will come upon those who are to be confirmed. They kneel before the bishop, who lays his hands on the head of each, saying:
Confirm, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit.
Then all say together:
Defend, O Lord, this your servant with your heavenly grace, that (s)he may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in the Holy Spirit more and more, until (s)he comes into your everlasting kingdom.
The Eucharist continues and the newly-confirmed join with the rest of the Church in receiving the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
The Universal Church
It is in baptism that God receives you into Christ's Body, which makes you a member of the Universal Church. So the new Christian has joined something much bigger than All Saints: and bigger than the Church of England. He or she is now a member of the universal or catholic Church, which stretches through history, across the world and into eternity.
The Baptism of Children.
Many people are Baptized(Christened) as infants and there has sometimes been confusion as to what Baptism is about. Baptism is not a naming ceremony. nor is it a thanksgiving for safe childbirth - there are other ways of doing each of these.
The central point of Baptism is that your child becomes part of God's Family. Wanted, welcomed and loved as much as in your human family. Like any child who will eventually inherit parental gifts, a child who is part of God's family inherits God's gifts, which are more than anything we can find- in this life. When we are part of God's family, life takes on a whole new meaning. and our human life is no longer an end in itself - it becomes a part of the path of creation itself.
Because in Baptism your child becomes part of God's family the Baptism takes place as part of the family life of the Church. This is our gathering each Sunday to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which we do at the service He particularly gave us, called the Eucharist or the Holy Communion.
We do understand that sometimes this can be difficult with family and friends travelling from far flung parts, but, just as it is a normal part of your family life to get together, including the larger family at special celebrations, so it is with God's-Family.
During the Baptism you will be asked to make some promises, with the Godparents you have chosen for your child. In any family with a new member it's important that everyone gets to know each other. You are therefore asked to Promise that your child will get to know God. This cannot be left until the child is "old enough to make up his or her own mind." No-one makes an important decision in their life without adequate knowledge.
It is then an important part of bringing your child to Baptism that you mean it when in the service you say that you are willing to help your child get to know God as he or she grows up. That way, when they are old enough, your child will be able to make a sensible and informed decision about God for themselves.
Also during the Baptism, you will be asked to declare your allegiance to Jesus Christ and your rejection of all that is against him.
None of us are perfect, but as followers of Christ, our aim is to make every effort to achieve the ideal way of life He has shown us - this is better for us and for the world in which we live. You are therefore asked in the service if you turn to Christ, as the sole inspiration in your life and reject evil - being sorry for when you have been less than perfect.
Finally, before your child is Baptised, you are asked to state that you "believe and trust" in one God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Father - the Creator, and loving, caring Father; God the Son - Jesus - who showed us what the Father is like but whom we can identify with more easily; God The Holy Spirit - Father and Son at work in the world today, the active love which binds all things together. These promises are simply about our essential commitment as members of God's family to Him and each other.
All of this is printed on the service sheet. so do not worry about having to learn it all. The important thing is, when you make your responses remember you are making them to God, with some of His People as witnesses. We hope that you will make, and take, the promises you will make seriously.
The Baptism of your child is a free gift from God. However, do remember that your child's baptism comes from the death and resurrection of Jesus. God took the initiative and we accept his gifts in response to this. Our belief, our faith, can be called a 'friendship with God". Like any friendship its quality depends on what we make of it.
As your child grows up you are all going to have adventures together and learn many different things together. We hope that one of the things you will enjoy exploring together as a family will be your friendship with God. This will require some effort from you, but the rewards really are beyond compare!
It is our hope that we at All Saints Church can help you all to set out on this adventure, and we will certainly make you welcome on the special day of your child's Baptism. Do feel free to ask any questions you may have.
Then he will arrange to meet with you, usually at your home, and will chat with you about Baptism and your responsibilities as Parents. A provisional date will be set and you will be asked to spend some time thinking about Baptism before you return the Application Form. Please don’t hesitate to ask Fr Steve any questions you may have. Once Fr Steve has the Application Form back the date is set. However, difficulties can arise and dates rearranged. This is not a problem – just contact Fr Steve!
All Saints Church will be delighted to make you, and your family, welcome. and we hope you enjoy a very special day for you and your child.