The main difference between the two is that the former doesn’t not require anyone to make to make a public confession of their faith if they are not sure about their belief.
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 is said about baptism below, 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 shows, 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.
As the notes accompanying the service in Common Worship explain, the service is designed to meet the needs of:
The Church baptises because Jesus instructed his first disciples to do so:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19,20
A baptism begins with teaching about the ‘Good News’ (or Gospel) of Jesus Christ. The individual may then freely choose to respond to the person of Jesus by repentance (which means saying sorry to God) followed by the placing of their faith and trust in the person of Jesus and the belief that by the blood of the cross Jesus has taken away the sin that separates us from God.
In response to this confession of faith, which must be freely made, the individual is washed in water (traditionally this meant immersing the individual in water but today water is often just symbolically poured over the head) and their name, and the following words, are recited: “I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
An individual chooses to be baptised once they have heard and responded to the message about Jesus Christ. Before the actual baptism the individual repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as the one who is able to free them from their sins by his death and resurrection. They are then baptised with water, which symbolises the washing away of sin. They receive God’s grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit and become a member of the church. The Holy Spirit pours God’s love into the heart of a person and changes them. Jesus said that a person is ‘born again’ through baptism to express the new life they are given.
Their main aim in life then becomes the sharing of God’s love and forgiveness through good works with others and building their relationship with God through the person of Jesus by being part of group of people who believe (a church), through reading Scripture and through prayer.
At a baptism service an individual will be asked to express their faith by answering the following question:
In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask: Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.
The Church baptises children too young to understand the Christian faith on the understanding that parents and godparents make their confession of faith on behalf of the child as described above and that they make the following promises:
Faith is the gift of God to his people.
In baptism the Lord is adding to our number those whom he is calling. People of God, will you welcome these children/ candidates and uphold them in their new life in Christ?
With the help of God, we will.
The minister of baptism then says to the parents and godparents:
Parents and godparents, the Church receives these children with joy. Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith. Will you pray for them, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?
With the help of God, we will.
In baptism these children begin their journey in faith. You speak for them today. Will you care for them, and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?
With the help of God, we will.
To become a godparent a person must have been baptised (and preferably confirmed though this is often not the case). If they have not and you still want them to be a part of the service then you need to speak to the vicar.
It is usual to have three Godparents: two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex, but to have one Godfather and one Godmother is sufficient if there are problems in finding three Godparents.
Baptism can take place anywhere and at any church. However if you wish to have your child baptised at a church other than your local parish church you should always contact your local vicar/priest and let them know.
There is no fee for a baptism service. Why? Because the new life received through baptism is God’s gift freely given, one which no one can earn or obtain by payment. It rests upon what Jesus did for us on the cross.
It is usual for a contribution to be made towards the ministry and upkeep of the church at which the child is baptised.
At an infant baptism the parents and godparents promise to bring the child up so that they reach the point where they are able, if they choose to, to make their own confession of faith, confirming for themselves, the promises which were made on their behalf at their baptism. At confirmation there is a ‘laying on of hands’ with prayer through which God is asked to give the Holy Spirit. An individual has usually to be at least a teenager before they are considered to be mature enough to understand and make their own confession of faith.
Traditionally a Christian could only receive the bread and wine at communion after they had been confirmed. However there is no good reason for this and today there is a trend towards allowing an individual too young to be confirmed to receive communion after instruction without needing to be confirmed.
A description of what happens in an Anglican Baptism service and why can be found here.
The basic order of a service giving the words and actions used in the service can be found here.