More about baptisms

Below is more information about baptisms and having a baptism at St John’s in the City. To discuss having a baptism at St John’s in the City, please contact us.

What does it mean to identify with the person of Jesus Christ?

It is more than admiring Jesus as a great religious figure in history. It’s a conscious decision to let our lives be shaped by his, in the recognition that in him there is found God’s love and grace and a set of values and priorities that give a distinctive direction to our lives. This decision implies that we participate in the transformative event of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as a personal relationship with Jesus that requires nurturing through such things as worship, prayer, Bible study and other spiritual disciplines. Our hope is in the promise of God to complete the plan God has for us and for the world.

What does it mean to identify with the Church?

For all its faults and failings, the Church is a worshipping community that is identified as being called to be the continuing presence of Jesus in the world, drawing others into his reconciling embrace. To identify with this fallible, imperfect community is to learn what grace is and to join in its mission, which is to make Jesus Christ known in word and deed.

An image of Baptism is being grafted into the body of Christ as a branch is grafted onto a vine. The individual then participates in the life and worship of the whole community, receives nourishment from the community, and becomes one with that whole worldwide community.

How are these commitments expressed in the baptism ceremony? 

The faith we identify with in Baptism is that which has sustained the Church for thousands of years, into which we are included.

With infant baptism, the faith expressed is obviously not that of the child, nor is it the faith only of the parents. As the primary care-givers and influencers in the child’s life, the parents are asked to reaffirm their faith in Jesus Christ. The parents are joining in the expression of the faith of the whole Church. The congregation of St John’s in the City expresses the faith we all share, as well as expressing commitment to support the parents’ promise to bring their child up in the life of the Church in the hope that in due course he/she will also join in affirming the faith shared by the whole Church. Baptism is a celebration of belonging – belonging in the life of God and in the life of the Church. Baptism is a sign of our faithfulness to the way of Jesus Christ, in the power promised to us by the Holy Spirit.

How does the Church fulfil its commitment made in Baptism to parents and child?

In practical terms, the parents and children come under the pastoral care of St John’s in the City. The age-specific ministries of St J’s Kids and Youth Group are intended to engage young people and help them grow in faith. These ministry programmes are guided by the congregation’s commitment to families, and also support the commitment of the parents.

The vows of parents and congregation are rendered meaningless if the parents have simply brought their child to be “done” and have no intention of sharing in the ongoing life of the Church. It is for this reason that our Presbyterian Book of Order requires the authorisation of Session (the Church’s elders) for the baptism of those who are not members of the congregation.

For congregational members and their children, Session’s authorisation is not required. In the case of adult baptism the person expresses their desire to confess their faith in Christ and to promise to be committed to the life and mission of the Church.

If I was baptised as a child, can I be baptised again as an adult?

No, the Church has never offered provision for a second baptism. The understanding of Baptism is that it is a response only ever made once. Thereafter, a person may have the opportunity to make a declaration to reaffirm the original faith response. The celebration of Confirmation is where the Church encourages people who have been baptised into the faith of the Church, by the desire of their parents, to declare that they now also identify themselves as sharing this faith.

What’s the difference between Christening and Baptism?

None, although there used to be. A baby’s christening used to be the naming ceremony (the bestowal of a Christian name) that accompanied the act of Baptism.

What’s the difference between Baptism and Dedication?

In Baptism the primary focus is on God’s initiative and grace (to which we – congregation and parents together – respond in faith), whereas in a dedication ceremony the emphasis is on the parents’ decision to dedicate their baby to God. A dedication ceremony need not involve the congregation.

Can we have the Baptism in our home?

No, except in cases of serious ill health. There’s no such thing as a private baptism. By its very nature it involves a congregation and will take place in the context of public worship.

If my child or I are not baptised, will we remain outside God’s love and care?

No. Baptism is not about securing a ticket to heaven. God’s love is not conditional upon a church ritual being performed. The response of Baptism is what the Church consistently encourages people to consider as the best way we know for our lives to be set upon a new course knowing God’s goodness.

Why bother with infant baptism? Why not let my child grow up and make their own decision about God?

There is no point of neutrality when it comes to raising children and imparting personal convictions and beliefs, especially in relation to issues of faith. It is nonsense to pretend otherwise. The question is not how can I maintain a neutral position, but rather what kind of beliefs do I wish to impart and which tradition will best enable me to do that? In this context, Baptism is not an act of coercion but rather an act of faith.

The baptism of infants reflects the understanding that salvation is the gracious and unmerited gift of God. Baptism does not achieve salvation – all that is necessary has been achieved in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – and the Church is the community that knows this reality and celebrates it in the joyous celebration of Baptism. It was the superstition prevalent in the Middle Ages that regarded Baptism like some sort of ‘insurance policy’ should a child die in infancy. The Church Reformers made it clear that rather than being necessary for salvation, Baptism is a sign of salvation.

I’m not sure what I believe about all this Jesus stuff, but I want my child baptised because I was baptised and/or I have a family connection with St John’s in the City that goes back generations. Is that OK?

The aim of giving out this information is not to dissuade people from proceeding but rather to allow them to make a decision with integrity. Baptism should not be reduced to a quaint family tradition and the Church should not be treated with disrespect. If you are considering baptism for your child but you are not a member of St John’s in the City, we would encourage you to worship here for a while first to see if this is really going to be something you want your family to be part of.

We live outside Wellington, but want our child baptised at St John’s in the City because that’s still regarded as our “family church”. Is that OK?

Yes. But we do hope that you have an affiliation with a local church, and we will want to inform that church of the baptism so that it may include your family in its pastoral care.

In our marriage, we come from different denominational backgrounds. Will the baptism of our child at St John’s in the City mean that we’re now forever Presbyterian?

No. Your child will be baptised not into the Presbyterian Church but rather into the universal (‘catholic’ is the technical term) Church. Denominational affiliation is tied not to the act of baptism but to the church that you choose to associate yourself with. This may change over time.

Should we appoint godparents for our child?

Having godparents is not a Presbyterian tradition, but if you wish to have them then we can include them in the baptism ceremony. They will be asked to support the parents in the fulfilment of their vow to bring their child up in the Christian faith and in the life of the Church.

To discuss having a baptism at St John’s in the City, please contact us.