Birth

The main rites of passage during the life of a ChristianThe main rites of passage during the life of a ChristianBBC RELIGION & ETHICS, RETRIEVED 2013

Infant baptism

Baptism has been a symbolic way of joining the Church from the very start of Christianity. Water is used in baptism, and is a symbol of washing away sin and the start of a new life.

Many denominations baptise infants. Although ceremonies are similar, there are some important differences between them.

During the infant baptism ceremony:

  • the baby, parents and the godparents are welcomed
  • there are readings from the Bible
  • the parents and godparents take vows, renounce Satan and evil and profess their faith and the faith they want the baby to be brought up in
  • the Apostles’ Creed might be said as a statement of faith
  • water is poured over the baby’s head as the minister says: I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (in Orthodox Churches, the baby is briefly put completely under the water)
  • godparents are sometimes given a lighted candle to represent the light of Jesus that has come into the baby’s life
  • for the ceremony, parents may dress their baby in a special white garment
Baptism scene, Granada, Nicaragua
Baptism scene, Granada, Nicaragua

Christians believe that baptism welcomes the child into the Church, and removes from the baby original sin that was brought into the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.

The baptism ceremony also allows parents and godparents to make a promise before God to bring the baby up within the faith of Christianity.

Christian denominations that practise infant baptism include Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians and Orthodox.

Dedication service

Baptist and Pentecostal churches baptise people when they are adults and able to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be baptised. They do, however, often have a short service of dedication within a regular Sunday service to mark the birth of a baby.

During the service of dedication, the parents present their child in church. The story of Jesus' presentation in the Temple as told in Luke is often read. The parents promise to bring the child up according to Christian values, in a Christian home and as part of the church community.