†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† BAPTISM continued
Godparents and Sponsors
The role of Godparents is often confused with the legal role of guardians,
but the two roles are entirely separate.
The role of Godparents is to speak on behalf of the infant being baptised
during the baptism service itself and to support the parents in bringing the
child up as a Christian within the family of the Church, so that they will
confess the faith for themselves and come in due time to confirmation.
In order that they can fulfil their role Godparents need be able to make the
declarations and promises in the baptism services, which is why the Church of
England requires all Godparents to be baptised themselves and normally to be
confirmed as well. That is also why it is not possible for a member of
another faith to be a Godparent.
Those who are baptised as infants normally have to have at least three
Godparents. At least two of them have to be of the same sex as the infant and
one has to be of the opposite sex. If it proves impossible for there to be
three Godparents it is possible for a baptism to take place with one
Godfather and one Godmother. Parents can be Godparents to their own children
providing there is at least one other Godparent as well.
Those who are older when they are baptised have sponsors rather than
Godparents. The role of the sponsor is not to speak for the person being
baptised, but to formally present them for baptism and to help them in their
growth as Christians after they have been baptised. There need to be at least
two and preferably three sponsors and they are chosen by the candidates for
baptism themselves. Like Godparents they need to be baptised and normally
A helpful leaflet about becoming a godparent is available to buy from Church
and where baptisms take place
In an emergency, such as when a new born infant is very seriously ill, it is
possible for people to be baptised anywhere. However, baptisms usually take
place in a parish church or a cathedral during the main Sunday service. The
reason for this is because, as has already been said, baptism means becoming
part of God's family and so it is appropriate that it takes place when the
other members of the family are gathered together for public worship both so
that they can support those who are being baptised and also so that they can
be reminded of the continuing significance of their own baptism.
People are normally baptised in their own parish church (or in a cathedral if
they are part of the cathedral congregation). It is possible for people to be
baptised in a church in another parish if there is a good reason for this,
but this can only happen if the goodwill of their own parish priest has been
sought. In this case the welcoming by the Church provided for in the Common
Worship service may take place subsequently in their own parish church since
this represents their local Christian family.
Preparation for baptism
Except in an emergency, at least a week's notice has to be given before a
baptism can take place. However, the minister conducting the baptism will
almost certainly delay the baptism longer than this. This may partly be in
order to fit the baptism into the wider pattern of services in the church or
cathedral involved. More importantly, however such a delay will allow time
for the minister to ensure that those being baptised, or their parents in the
case of infants, receive adequate preparation.
The purpose of this preparation is to enable those involved to understand
what baptism means and the solemn Christian commitment that it entails. The
form that this preparation involves will vary depending on the practice of
the church or cathedral concerned and the particular circumstances of those
service of thanksgiving
Many people seek baptism for their children because they want to give thanks
to God for their child's arrival into the world. From a Christian
perspective, it is right that they should want to do this, but, as can be
seen from what has been said about baptism here, this is not what the baptism
service is for.
However, the Church of England provides a service of Thanksgiving for the
Gift of a Child. As its title indicates, this service is about giving thanks
for the miracle of new life, and it is not an alternative to baptism since it
is not part of the process of Christian initiation. If a service of
thanksgiving is held, baptism may then follow at a later date.
the notes accompanying the service in Common Worship explain, the service is
provided for a number of different occasions:
private celebration of a birth or adoption, at home or in church with family
and close friends present
public celebration of the birth or adoption of a number of children, perhaps
in church on a Sunday afternoon;
public celebration of the birth or adoption of a number of children as part
of a main Sunday act of worship.
service is designed to meet the needs of: †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
who see this service as a preliminary to baptism;
who do not wish their children to be baptised immediately;
who do not ask for baptism, but who recognise that something has happened for
which they want to give thanks to God.
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