What happens in an infant baptism ceremony?

DRW & Associates, Inc.

Baptism is a ceremony practised in the Christian church as demonstration of acceptance into the community of believers in Jesus Christ. Christians believe that baptism is a sign of God's love, and the baptism of an infant confirms that God's grace exists in a life even before the child is aware of it intellectually.

Although doctrine varies from church to church, all base the practice on the act of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and Jesus' directions (Matthew 28:19) to make disciples by baptising people of all nations and (Matthew 19:14) to allow little children to follow him. Baptism is regarded as a "rebirth in Christ," a cleansing and joining of the human spirit with that of Jesus Christ. Protestants tend to emphasise the concept of the covenant between God and humanity, and Roman Catholics put great emphasis on the ritual itself. Both consider the sacrament of baptism to be an essential beginning to the Christian life. Baptism marks the acceptance of grace by the child and the washing away of all that separates him from God.

Baptisms are performed by immersion, infusion (pouring water) or aspersion (sprinkling water). The child is presented for whatever method the church uses by the parents. In all churches, the child is presented to the priest/minister at a receptacle called a "baptismal font" that holds water that has been blessed according to the rules of the denomination. Often, there are "sponsors" or "godparents" present who promise to support the parents and child. In some churches, these people actually promise to become parents to the child if the parents should not be present or die. The child asks for baptism through her parents or sponsors and is immersed, washed or splashed with water that has been blessed and is perceived as "holy water" by the priest/minister and congregation. The ceremony always includes the naming of the child and a commitment to God.

Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians tend to have very strict rituals for baptism. In both churches the first event in a baptism is an exorcism and renunciation of evil, directed by the priest. In Protestant churches, the priest/minister offers prayers for God's grace and examines the parents as to their intentions. After the child has been prepared, the priest/minister leads the parents and sponsors/godparents in a series of prayers, committing the child to live a Christian life and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Many Protestant churches include the congregation in this commitment section. The child is given a name and is anointed with whatever form the denomination uses. Prayers of thanksgiving and intercession are offered, asking God to help the child to become a true follower of Jesus Christ. Many churches also include a section where the Lord's Prayer or Apostle's Creed is recited by the congregation. The ritual concludes with the presentation of the child to the congregation.