The Baptism of a Child
We are glad that you are seeking Baptism for your child/children. We believe that this is an important step for you and for your family to take, as it is also for the Christian family to which your child will now belong. We hope that what now follows will help to explain what Baptism means and how and when it takes place.
The Meaning of Baptism
In the very beginning when people were baptised it was a sign that they wanted to live their lives in Christ’s way and be part of the Christian Church founded in his name. The Service of Baptism also makes it clear that “we baptise because Christ himself was baptised,” a reference to the several passages in the Gospel books that tell his story. (The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’.)
Mark’s Gospel, the oldest of the four gospels, says simply that Jesus who came from the town of Nazareth was baptized by John in the Jordan river. (Mark, Chapter 1, verse 9.) That is to say that Jesus had water poured upon his head, a symbol that he wanted to put the past behind him and commit himself to a new way of life in what John called ‘God’s Kingdom’. In a sense Baptism is the first sign of the new life that is possible by living our life in God’s way that is so wonderfully revealed in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ himself.
Of course, a little child cannot understand this at the time of their baptism, and so it is the duty and responsibility of their parents to bring them up in the way of Christ and the Christian Church. The church in which the child is baptised will offer help in this task and will provide a creche and a Young Church during the time of the Sunday service as the child is growing up.
An Alternative to Baptism
For many years it has been the practice of the Church of Scotland to baptize both adults and children. Clearly, in the beginning, it was adults who presented themselves to be baptized and thus become members of the Christian Church throughout the world. But times change, and from the early centuries of the Church’s life Christian parents would bring their new-born child and young children to the church with the desire that they too might be baptized. There is even a passage in Mark’s Gospel which may have prompted this desire. “Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ Then he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on each of them, and blessed them.’” (Mark, Chapter 10, verses 13-16). Still today, in the Service of Baptism, these words of Jesus play an important part.
However, some people might say that ‘infant’ baptism doesn’t go far enough and that they would rather their children decide for themselves as adults whether they would be baptized or not. Equally, there are some parents for whom the baptism of their child is a step too far, and for all such parents the Church of Scotland is happy to provide instead a ceremony in which the gift of a child whether by birth or adoption is celebrated.
How, Where and When?
Parents will know best what sort of service they want. Christian parents in most cases will want a service of baptism, in which water plays a part, whereas parents who are not sure whether this step is the right one to make at this stage may prefer a celebration in which the birth of a child is recognised in public and welcomed by a family, friends and a congregation. Either way our hope as a Christian Church is that this will take place in a church building and during a Sunday Service.
For more information on Baptisms, please see the Church of Scotland's page on life events: