Welcome you to this information page on Thanksgiving and Baptism services . Recently we at St Patrick,s & St Andrew,s have made some major changes to the way in which we hold our baptism services. Not so long ago, most baptisms, despite the title of the service being "public baptism", were anything but public and took place in an empty church on a quiet Sunday afternoon with only family and friends present. But, as scripture shows, Jesus regards children as being of great value. He loves our children even more than we do! And we, as members of Christ's Church are called to love all our children too, so we are seeking to make baptism a joyful, shared experience where we can show love, support and encouragement to young parents.
A baptism is usually a happy social occasion, which is how it was in New Testament times, so it's good to follow in this ancient custom - but it's even better when we do it for the right reasons. Parents naturally want the best for their children, and to bring up their child as a Christian, which they promise to do in the baptism service, is the best possible start in life because it is what God intends for their child.
Baptism was commanded by Jesus as a public declaration of what had taken place in the heart of a person who has trusted Christ for salvation. From early times it has been the custom of the church that baptism should be administered to the children of believing parents, who promised to teach their children the Christian faith by word and example.
But should we expect parents to teach the Christian faith if they don't practise it themselves? Therefore, parents are asked to openly affirm that they personally accept the teachings of the Church and are committed to the teaching and values of Christianity. Actually, this is rather a lot to take on without giving it some serious thought, so in our baptism preparation courses we try to give parents (and godparents) an opportunity to think and talk these things through in a relaxed and friendly setting. There is no guarantee that we are going to get it right all of the time, but we are all in this together - with God and with each other as part of the Christian family.
The staff in St. Patrick's are keen to encourage people to take the issue of baptism, and in particular the promises and affirmations they make, seriously. But we are aware that there are some pastoral difficulties involved. We face sensitive issues when, for example, people who are not part of the worshipping community or who are not in a position to honestly make the promises required of them, present children for baptism. Some hold the opinion that it is their right to have their child baptised, whether or not they attend church or claim to be followers of Jesus and His teachings.
What is the church to do? When it says no, it feels that it is sending people away empty handed and condemned -surely not what Jesus would have done. When it says yes, it feels that it is devaluing the affirmations of faith and promises made before God and that is contrary to scripture. Bearing all these things in mind, the staff have sought to produce a policy that is even handed and still maintains integrity.
Put simply, there are two elements, both very firmly in line with the historic tradition of the Church of Ireland..........as follows..:
Firstly, every parent can come with the new baby, to a short and simple act of thanksgiving. There are no conditions, no promises or affirmations and therefore no need to attend preparation classes, although an informal talk with one of the staff would be desirable. You can do this as soon as possible whenever mother and baby are ready.
Thanksgiving is exactly what it says, an opportunity to thank God for the birth of a child and to receive the. prayerful support of the church family as you begin the difficult task of bringing them up in a difficult world. Thanksgiving is available for anyone and for many is the first step towards baptism. All parents are encouraged to come for thanksgiving, which can take place as soon as baby is ready to he brought out to church. It can be incorporated into most services - modem or traditional - to suit the family and only takes a few days to organise. (It's probably best not to have Thanksgiving in Holy Communion services and on special days). Contact Graham Nevin or any of the staff to make arrangements.
We all join in wishing you well and we pray that your child will grow up happy and healthy and will bring you much joy. We look forward to welcoming your children into the church family, where we hope all of you will find encouragement support and practical help, but above all, a living and saving Christian faith. For most people, the arrival of a new baby is an experience that makes us turn in thankfulness to God, the source of all life. We encourage you to express your thankfulness to God and we invite you to share with us in a short act of thanksgiving at one of our regular Sunday services.
Common Thanksgiving Questions
What do we have to do?
We do this in a very simple way, using the Thanksgiving in the 2004 Church of Ireland prayer book. You will be invited to come, with your new baby to the front of the church and read a short thanksgiving prayer, after which we will pray for you, your baby and for the home in which you will grow up together
Can anyone do this?
Yes, this is available for everyone, no matter what your circumstances, whether or not you are a regular church attender and whatever your experience and understanding of God might be. There is also a special for newly adopted children.
When should this happen?
It's good to come just as you feel ready to bring your baby out. We usually have the Thanksgiving at the beginning of the service so if your little one doesn't settle or needs to be changed or fed, you can slip out (St Patrick's has baby changing facilities at the back of the church). You can pick any service, morning or evening, just as it suits, although we prefer not to include a Thanksgiving in the Parish Communion at St Patricks on the first Sunday in the mouth, as this can already be a long service. If you have a particular Sunday in mind, we can probably fit in with that, although it is not always possible to arrange for the Thanksgiving to be led by a particular member of staff.
Who, should come?
Anyone can come and older brothers and sisters are especially welcome, but you don't need Godparents, sponsors or anything like that.
Are there "any strings attached" if we come for Thanksgiving?
No - the act of Thanksgiving is simply that. Nobody will ask you to join anything or to make any promises that you feel you may not be able to keep. Of course, we would love to see you and your family as active members of our Christian family, since we believe that only in Jesus Christ can we find a way through the many problem of fife that you as a growing family will undoubtedly encounter, but Thanksgiving isn’t conditional on joining the church.
What is The Thanksgiving Prayer?
(Leader) Let us thank God that in his goodness he has given you this son/daughter. (Parents) God our Father, maker of all that is living, We praise you for the wonder and joy of creation. We thank you for the life of our child ..................For his/her safe delivery, And for the joy and privilege of parenthood Accept our thanks and praise. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
What do I do next?
Simple, just contact the Parish Office (028 7034 4213) and leave your details, or, if you prefer, speak directly to one of the staff team.
Secondly, for those who want to, baptism can be explored later on. All parents presenting children for baptism will have to participate in a short preparation course. This will be normally be a series of three evening classes, held in the home of people who have themselves gone through the trials and joys of bringing up a family in a Christian home. Because we find it helpful to go through this course with a group of parents who can share their ideas and experiences, we hold baptism courses approximately every three months. While this may mean that baptism services are less frequent than they were in the past, it also means that we can concentrate our resources into a really special service in which all of us can share in the joy of seeing young parents confidently and sincerely making their declaration of faith, assuring them of our prayers and practical support and welcoming their children into the church family.
Baptism Celebration which is built around the Order for Baptism of the BCP 2004, is the main service of the day when there is a month with a 5th Sunday. It is a great time for everyone to celebrate the arrival of new members into the church family and has become one of our most popular services. In our parish, we take Baptism very seriously and believe that no one should make the promises and declarations that are part of the service unless they fully understand - and are prepared to put into practice - what they are agreeing to. For this reason, parents and godparents are expected to attend the Baptism preparation course, held 4 or 5 times a year, in the month leading up to the 5th Sunday. The course looks at our understanding of baptism and at the meaning of the affirmations of faith that are made in the service, as well as some of the practicalities of bringing up children in the Christian faith. In the past, participation in these course has been enthusiastic and thoughtful and many of the parents have taken significant steps in their personal faith and made new friends. The course takes 3 evenings and is held in homes where the hosts have a wealth of practical experience in bringing up children to share with young parents. We are always happy for you to bring baby along as well. Young people and adults thinking of baptism are also invited, to be part of the baptism preparation group.
As part of the Church of Ireland the Parish of Coleraine maintains the tradition that the sacrament of Holy Baptism is for the children of believing parents. In the Baptism service, you as parents (and also any Godparents) will be asked to make certain promises and affirmations. The traditional service reminds us that "Holy Baptism is administered to infants on the understanding that they will be brought up in the fellowship of Christ's Church; that they will be taught the Christian faith and you will be asked to publicly agree to do this. However, we can't really expect you to teach your child the Christian faith if you don't understand and practice it yourself so you will also be asked to affirm that you personally accept the central teachings of Christianity. The Church has always understood that these things need to be taken very seriously and indeed the "rules' of the Church of Ireland require that the promises and affirmations of Baptism should be explained to parents before they are permitted to bring their children. Here in St Patrick's and St Andrews, we run a short Baptism preparation course several times a year and before their children are baptised all parents are required to take part. If there are to he Godparents, they are also encouraged to participate, although we appreciate that often they do not live in the area and attendance may not be possible If this sounds a bit daunting, be assured did meeting together with other young families in a relaxed atmosphere will be helpful in many areas both spiritually and practically, and good fun too.
Common Baptism Questions
When can I have my baby baptised?
We hold Baptism Celebrations several times a year. The Baptism Celebration is an occasion when all of the congregation can join with you in celebrating the introduction of new members into our church. Normally, this will he in St Patrick's on the 5th Sunday of those months with five Sundays. Other than in the most exceptional circumstances, we do not administer private baptisms.
When and where is the Baptism preparation course?
The course runs for three evenings in the three weeks leading up to the Baptism Celebration Sunday. Usually, it will be on a Thursday evening from 7.45 to around 9.30, big we will try to ensure that we can find a night that suits everyone in the group. We meet at the home of one of our small team of hosts - all people with valuable practical experience of bringing up a Christian family.
Do I really need to do this course?
Yes, unless you have been through the course with a previous child, in which case while you need not come, you are still welcome to join us, particularly for the last week when you can meet the other families. Even if you are an active member of St Patrick's or St. Andrews, we still need you there, and we would value your experience and input too.
Is there an exam?
No, but remember did each one of us will have to answer to God for the promises that we made.
Can anyone bring their child for Baptism?
There we some rules about being a member of a church, so if neither parent has been baptised into the Christian church (not necessarily the Church of Ireland) you will need to talk to us first. Probably the most difficult issue to deal with is that of lifestyle: in the service you will make certain promises about following the teachings of Jesus Christ and if you choose not to live in accordance with these teachings, then you cannot make these promises. If we are honest none of us will ever succeed in following all that Jesus taught. As long as there are hungry or lonely people in the world, we are letting Jesus down, and this is not to mention all the wrong things we continually do or think. The real issue is one of choice - if any of us chooses to continue to break Gods laws, whether it is dishonest business dealing, violent behaviour or sexual activity of any kind outside marriage, then we cannot honestly make the promises required in the Baptism service and we therefore exclude ourselves. Regretfully, in today's world, that means that a couple living together outside of marriage should not expect to bring their child for baptism, but they will always be welcome to come for Thanksgiving, to come along to any of our church activities and to talk through the whole issue of Christian marriage in confidence with one of the staff.
What if only one parent can make the promises?
There are all kinds of reasons why this could be the case and we realise that some of them may be quite painful. The best thing to do is to talk to one of the staff about it. We do not exclude single parents living apart, divorced parents or mixed marriages from bringing their children. If one parent genuinely has reasons for not wishing to make the promises or affirmations in the Baptism service, we would respect this honesty as a much better alternative to saying things which you do not really believe.
Do we need Godparents?
The simple answer is no, it is entirely a matter of personal choice and it is probably better to have no Godparents than to have Godparents who are not in a position to keep their promises.
Do all children in St. Patrick's and St. Andrew's have to be baptised?
No. Here, as in many other churches, some people have reservations about baptism, preferring to defer it until their children are old enough to make up their own Minds on the matter. We accept this honest viewpoint and for these families there are appropriate prayers we can include in the Thanksgiving. Baptism is not a prerequisite for joining in any of our church activities (except for holding office).
Can I be baptised as an adult?
Yes, if you have recently become a Christian. It is not normal to re-baptise someone who had already been baptised as an infant although there may be circumstances in which this would be appropriate. You need to talk to us first and we would still like you to come to the course.
What do we do next?
The first thing that you should have done is to arrange to come for Thanksgiving. If you then want to consider Baptism, cheek with the staff about the next suitable date. It should always be the 5th Sunday, but please do not make any arrangements, such as booking flights for relatives, until you have confirmed the date with us and have made arrangements to attend the preparation course. You will need to complete the attached registration form and return it to the Parish Office at least 5-6 weeks before the scheduled date for Baptism. You should still complete a registration form even if you have had a child baptised previously.
St Patricks Sunday School
The Parish Centre
50 Brook Street, Coleraine,