St Mark, winged lion of the Evangelist
St Mark's Church Community Centre, Bedford
A Christian Church where you will find a welcome whoever you are. Sunday worship is 9.30am with Sunday School and creche. We also provide a community centre open each day from 8.00am until late, welcoming over 60 community groups and charities based at our centre. 
St Mark's Church, Diocese of St Albans, part of the worldwide Anglican Church
St Albans Diocese - Diocesan Crest

Baptism

Christening your baby
All you need to know about Christening - also known as Baptism

Congratulations on considering Christening for your child or baby, it is one of the most important decisions which you can take, either for yourself or for a child. We would be delighted to help as you consider baptism and you can be assured of a welcome from the church. Please find below all you need to know and some forms to record details which we will need for registration. Please get in touch so that we can help you make arrangements. 
Baptism - also known as Christening 

If you are considering a Christening then we very much look forward to welcoming you to St Mark's Church and we hope that this information will help you with some of the questions which you may have.  We understand that you are considering christening because your child is precious to you and precious to God and  you want the very best for them. A christening is the first step on our Christian journey in which we pray for a child that they will make right choices in life. Over the years to come, it’s a journey you’ll share together with your child by:
  • Being there for your child to talk to about the bigger questions of life – questions about hope, faith and love.
  • Praying for your child through the ups and downs of their faith journey.
  • Showing them practically how to make those good choices in life.
  • Helping them to learn more about their Christian faith, through their church and in other ways.
  • So it’s a commitment to start as you mean to go on.
We are sometimes asked, 'What is the difference between a christening service and a baptism service?' The answer is that they are the same, some churches will use the word ‘baptism’ and some the word ‘christening’. Babies are baptized during a christening service just as couples are ‘married’ during a ‘wedding’ service. The important thing is that you are choosing for your child to be brought into the family of the worldwide Christian church and seeking God's blessing on them as they begin a journey or pilgrimage of faith. 

Occasionally people are a bit worried about approaching a church for a christening , especially if they have had a bad experience elsewhere. So before we go any further we should say that we have never refused a request for baptism and we would be delighted to welcome you and your family to celebrate this important occasion. Of course baptism can only be given to somebody who has not been baptised before! With you we will thank God for the birth of your baby, name the child with their Christian name and welcome a new member into the Christian family of the Church. You can download a copy of the service here.  Of course if you are an adult who was not baptised as a child then we hope that baptism may be something which you would like to consider for yourself. Don't worry, you will not be placed in any embarrassing situations, we will not make you feel guilty about coming to church, but we do encourage you to start thinking of St Mark's as your church. 

Occasionally people ask us to provide a service for the naming of child, rather than a full christening service. We understand that some people may find that they want more time to consider the baptism promises and in these circumstances we can have a service of Thanksgiving in which we bless the child and they are given their Christian name. If that is your preference then of course we will also be pleased to arrange that for you and you can download a copy of that service here. 

Why have a christening?
A christening is a happy and special event, usually the first ‘formal’ event in a child’s life and it provides an opportunity for all the family, relatives and friends to come together. We are pleased to be able to share it with you, we have found that people celebrating baptism at our churches enjoy the service and we hope that your baby's baptism will be a wonderful and memorable occasion and that it will mark the beginning of a long and happy association with our church.

We do not put pressure upon parents or make them feel guilty about coming to church, but sometimes a christening can remind us of how much we have let our own Christian life slip. It can be an opportunity to affirm our trust in God and to make a fresh start. We hope that the welcome you receive will encourage you to feel a part of our church at St Mark's. We understand the effort involved for parents with young children to get organised and make a habit of going to church, but parents who do are usually pleased that they took the trouble. The Family Service operates on the first Sunday of every month at 9.30am, but you will find something in the whole range of services which take place on Sunday mornings. We welcome even noisy children to our services and provide a creche with toys and encourage parents to walk in and out during the service. As children grow older we have a thriving junior church group where they can meet others and enjoy learning about the Christian faith.  

It is our sincere belief that there is no better thing that you can give to a child than the opportunity to learn about God and his love for them. In the early years of a child's life they need to have this grounding of faith which will be vital for them if they are to develop into happy and balanced adults. It is a great sadness that this opportunity is not made available to so many children but we will work with you to enable your child to be welcomed into the family of the church. Please feel able to contact the Vicar Charles Royden to discuss your family christening and he will be pleased to spend time with you to help prepare and plan and the service.  Use the contact form to get in touch  or contact
Charles Royden, vicar@stmarkschurch.com or tel 07973 113861 


Why do we baptise babies?
  • Baptism is a chance for all the family to get together, celebrate and thank God for the new life which he has given. 
  • It is a time when we remember that as well as being a member of a human family your baby is a part of God’s family too, the family of the Church. 
  • It is a time when your child is given their special Christian name. 
  • It is sacrament, that means an outward and visible sign of God's love 

When Jesus was baptised in the River Jordan he became aware of God as his Father and felt the special presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, it was a turning point in his life. After his death and resurrection Jesus commanded his followers to make new disciples and baptise them too. This has been done ever since by Christians throughout the world. 

Most parents feel a need to say ‘thank you’ to someone for the wonderful gift of their child, that ‘someone’ is of course the God who gives life to us all. Jesus told his disciples to baptise people who wanted to become Christians and join the church. The Bible tells us that whole households were being baptised and of course soon parents wanted their children to be baptised too. Baptism is not like an insurance policy which you take out to make sure that your baby goes to heaven, God loves your child just as much now as after the baptism service. However it does make sense to give your child the very best start in life and what could be better than to encourage them from the very earliest days to be open to God and to know of his love for them? 

Some churches do not baptise children until they are old enough to understand everything for themselves. However we do make all kinds of decisions on behalf of our children including schools and medical treatment as we do our best to encourage them in the best way for their lives. We are pleased that you have decided to give your child the benefit of being welcomed into the church family, now please take the effort to bring them along to church throughout these early years so that they can have the Christian start that they deserve. In the baptism service we also pray that one day they will want as adults to stand up for themselves to confirm the baptism vows which have been made on their behalf: this is called Confirmation. If you would like a chance to think more about the Christian faith then you may like to join one of our beginners groups which attract people of all ages and can lead to confirmation. 

When will the baptism take place? 
Baptisms take place in the main Sunday Morning Service at church, this is important because part of the service is the welcoming of the child by the congregation. Usually the baptism occurs in the Family Service which is held on the First Sunday of the month. In certain circumstances it may be possible to arrange another service in the month. The service starts at 9.30am, please arrive at least ten minutes before the service, although we do reserve places for the immediate family and godparents. 

The promises
Baptisms take place during a service of worship because the congregation of the church is asked 
“Members of the Body of Christ, who are now in his name to receive this child, will you promise to maintain the common life of worship and service that all the children among you may grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord?” 

The congregation is promising you and your child that it will provide facilities for his/her Christian upbringing - usually through Sunday School and other organisations. This promise is made on behalf of all churches. 

After the congregation’s promises, parents and Godparents will be asked to stand up and declare their own Christian faith. It is important to make sure that you can make these promises and only you can truthfully know that. If you have any difficulty we will discuss the promises with you; if you feel unable to say these things then perhaps you would prefer a service of thanksgiving for the child and a naming ceremony. The choice is yours because a baptism is a very important occasion and not to be undertaken lightly. 

When parents and godparents are invited to gather around the font and the minister asks the parents and godparents the following questions and you will be asked to respond as follows 
 
In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvelous 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?  
Answer - I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?   
Answer - I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?   
Answer - I repent of them.
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?  
Answer - I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?  
Answer - I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?  
Answer - I come to Christ.

Naming of a child
When the minister baptises the child he will ask what name you have chosen. This will be the Christian name for the child for the rest of its life. The minister takes the child and says: N., I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Water
Water is a sign of cleansing and also an important sign of life. Water symbolises how we are all washed clean by God and forgiven and accepted by Him. As we cannot live without water so this sign reminds us that we also need the cleansing and renewing presence of God in our lives. 

The sign of the cross 
The minister will make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the child using the water.. This is a sign to remind us of how Christ died for each one of us on the cross. As Christ died for us so we are now signed with the cross -the badge of our faith - to remind us that we must not be ashamed to profess our faith and fight against all that is evil. 

Christ claims you for his own. Receive the sign of his cross.

The lighted candle
Following the baptism a lighted candle is given and the minister says, 

Receive this light ... this is to show that you have passed from darkness to light. 
All say: Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father. 

The child will be presented with a small candle to show that in baptism we pass from darkness to light. Jesus is described in the Bible as the light of the world and as Christians we are to shine as lights in the world. Our world needs now more than ever for us to all reject the ways of darkness and follow Christ in the Christian faith. 
The candle given at the christening reminds us that a child shines as a light in the world – and also that God is always with us. There are lots of ways to continue the amazing journey of faith as a family. It’s not just about special times, but about the ordinary times of wonder, love and joy – and the times when things go wrong.

Records
A permanent record of the baptism with family details is recorded in the official registers of the church. A copy of this is given in the form of a special certificate which the church has printed, as a reminder of this day.

Godparents
You will need to consider names of godparents and these will be included in the church register and the baptism certificate. Being asked to be a godparent is always a real privilege and shows that you have a special place in the family, but there are expectations and responsibilities too. You are asked to promise that you will love and encourage the child in the Christian faith by prayer, example and teaching. Parents should not feel pressurised to choose the wrong people but try to find people who can make the promises and mean them. Remember there is no right or wrong number of godparents; have as many or as few as you wish. Parents were once advised that they should choose three godparents for their baby, two of the same sex as the child. This is not a rule and you can have as many as you like, but you should have at least on Godmother and one Godfather. The Royal Family on the other hand tend to prefer to go for about six... well there's more presents!!

Godparents often buy a small present for the child; they should remember that this is a Christian occasion and so perhaps buy the child a children's Bible or story book of Bible stories. Our church has a bookshop available and we would be pleased to advise you accordingly. 

If you are unsure about the Christian faith, then why not view a copy of our booklet ‘What is a Christian ?' This is also available free of charge by contacting our church office. You may like to view a copy of our leaflet for godparents. 

Cost
There is no charge for a baptism service. In all of our services an offering is taken at which we have an opportunity to give to the work of the church. There is no obligation to give but we do this every week and so please can you tell any guests who come with you so that they are not embarrassed. 

Fonts
Because Baptism is a sign of entering the Church the font which held the water was once nearly always situated at the main door of the church. Today we have a movable font and we place it at the front of the church. It is easier for everyone to see!

Prayers and readings
Your child is very special to you which is one of the reasons why you have gone to the effort to ask for baptism. Baptism is a wonderful time to say thank you to God for the gift of a child. But of course your child isn't just your child - but God's as well. God loves your child and went to enormous lengths to show how much he loves all of his children, even to the point of dying on the cross. This means that in a sense there are no such things as single parents, God is a loving parent too. In the days and years ahead try to remember that you should not try to bring your child up on your own, but rather with the help and support of God as well. Here are some prayers and readings which you may find helpful. 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever. Amen. 

Lord Jesus Christ, you welcomed children when others turned them away. Help me to love my child as you love her/him. Give me patience when I am tired, strength to cope when things get tough. Give your Holy Spirit of love and joy to abide in our home and keep us safe. Amen. 

God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life 
The Gospel of John Chapter 3 Verse 16 (The Bible) 

Jesus said .. 'Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' 
The Gospel of Matthew Chapter 11 Verse 28 (The Bible)

Frequently Asked Questions

How many godparents are required 
Three is the minimum, unless it’s simply not possible to find three. There should be at least two godparents who are the same sex as the child and one who is the opposite sex. The Church of England laws about this will have been agreed long ago with the best interests of a child at heart. But the laws also allow for the different circumstances of families, so if three really cannot be found, then two will suffice.

Can parents also be godparents ?
Yes, so long as they are baptized. One or both parents can be a godparent to their child. If both parents are godparents, then just one additional godparent will be required for the service to make up the minimum of three.

Can somebody be a godparent who cannot come to the service ?
Godparents are really important people at a christening. A person can only be an official godparent if they are physically present at the service, since they will make some big promises for and on behalf of the child on the day. As they are already making promises on behalf of the child, to have another person making promises on their behalf confuses who is making promises on behalf of who! So there is actually no provision in the Church of England for ‘godparents by proxy’.
However, if a special person who you wanted to be a godparent is unable to make it to a christening, there is no reason why they can’t be asked to take on a godparent-like role unofficially, and that kind of relationship can be encouraged throughout the child’s life, but they wouldn’t be entered into the Baptism Register after the christening. 

What is the role of a godparent ?
Godparents are some of the most important people at a christening. Their main roles are:-
  • To be there for the child to talk to about the bigger questions of life.
  • Praying for the child through the ups and downs of their faith journey
  • Showing them how to make good choices in life, for themselves and for others
  • Helping them to learn more about the Christian faith, through their church and in other ways.

What age do Godparents have to be ?
There is actually no minimum age for godparents, but the chosen person must be mature enough to understand the lifelong commitment and responsibility they are taking on. It’s a demanding role, but some quite young people do feel ready for this. The vicar taking your service can help you decide. So if you’re thinking of asking a person who is under 16 to be a godparent, first talk to the vicar who will be taking the service. You will be able to talk together about whether this is the right decision, both for your child and for the young godparent.

Do Godparents have to be baptised ? 
Yes, this is a basic requirement for a godparent because of the very special role they have in supporting a child’s faith journey. People who have been baptized in the Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, United Reformed Church and other Christian denominations, can also be godparents at a Church of England christening.

Do Godparents have to confirmed ?
Godparents have a really special role in supporting a child in their Christian faith. The preparation and promises made at a confirmation demonstrate a commitment to living a Christian life, a model for a child just beginning their own amazing journey of faith. For this reason, it is preferable that godparents are confirmed, but if three confirmed godparents simply can’t be found, the church’s own law allows for these circumstances. The best thing to do is speak to the vicar who will be doing the baptism for further advice.

Do godparents become legal guardians?
It is a common misunderstanding that there is an obligation on you to care for the child should anything happen to the parents. This is not the case although sometimes parents will choose people as godparents who have been recognised in a legal will as potential guardians. However it is a demonstration by the parents that they value your presence in the Christian upbringing of their child.  Parents are most strongly encouraged to make a will outlining their wishes in the event of their death whilst a child is under 18 years of age. 





this is a baptism or christening candle
What is a baptism or christening candle ?

This is the candle we give to a child at baptism to symbolise the Light of Christ which we pray will shine brightly in their lives. 
The minister says 
Receive this light this is to show that you have passed from darkness to light  
The congregation all respond
Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father 
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