On Sunday we had a dedication for Joel during the church service that we usually go to. It is traditional in the Church of England to baptise babies in what is often called a ‘Christening’; this involves sprinkling them with water, and the parents of the baby declare their own faith and commitment to Jesus, and make promises to God on behalf of the baby. In other denominations, for example the Baptist Church, it is not traditional to baptise babies, but rather adults, and this usually involves them standing in a pool of water and being fully immersed and brought back out of the water, just as baptism used to be done in Biblical times.
Although the church we go to each week is part of the Church of England, it is not prescriptive in requiring babies to be baptised – as parents we have a choice whether to have them baptised or dedicated. Dedication does not involve water; instead it is an opportunity for us to publicly thank God for the gift of Joel, and pray for him as he grows up, that he might come to know and love Jesus for himself like we do, then if he chooses, he can be baptised as an adult.
Tom and I thought and prayed for a long time both before and after Andrew was born as to whether we wanted our child(ren) to be baptised or dedicated. Some of our thought processes were based on what we had experienced as babies and adults. I was dedicated as a baby and made my own decision to be baptised as a teenager; Tom was baptised as a baby and went on to be confirmed in the Church of England as an adult. Both my adult baptism and Tom’s confirmation were public declarations of our faith once we were old enough to decide for ourselves what we believe.
We also talked with our vicar, who explained some of the reasoning based on what the Bible says for baptising babies or adults. The theological arguments that have been made for and against infant baptism and adult baptism are quite complicated, and I won’t go into them all here – if you’re interested you can read all about them on Wikipedia. Essentially it boils down to what exactly we believe the meaning of baptism is. One way of looking at baptism is as a New Testament (and right up to the present day) Christian parallel to the Old Testament Jewish tradition of circumcision, in other words a way of welcoming babies into a faith community, thanking God for their safe arrival. There are various verses in the Bible, such as in the Book of Acts (chapter 2, verses 38-39; chapter 16, verses 14-15; chapter 18, verse 8), that talk of whole households (presumably including children) being baptised or that the promise of forgiveness through baptism is for everyone including children. Another way of looking at baptism is as an action of repentance, admitting that we have done wrong things, saying sorry for them, receiving God’s forgiveness by his grace, and also as a public statement of faith or belief in Jesus – of course babies are not old enough to understand and do these things on their own. There are various verses in the Bible that suggest this is what baptism means (e.g. Luke chapter 3, verse 3; Mark chapter 1, verse 4; Acts chapter 13, verse 24; Acts chapter 19, verse 4). Whichever way we look at it, the Bible teaches that there is only one baptism for each person, so it is either as a baby or as an adult, not both.
Overall, taking into account our own experiences and what we thought and prayed about having looked at the Bible, we felt like baptism made more sense to us if you actively choose to do it as an adult rather than if you passively have it done on your behalf as a baby. That is not to say that we think infant baptism is wrong – every parent has a choice on this, and this is just what we chose to do.
As well as us parents, Joel also has two Godparents, who have committed to praying for him and being available as mentors for things that might crop up in his spiritual journey that he’d rather talk to someone other than us about; they also stood up with us at the front of church on Sunday. Andrew was also dedicated in the same way (before I started blogging, so I didn’t write about it), and shares the same Godparents.
We had a lovely day celebrating the gift of Joel with family and friends. We missed a few people who couldn’t travel due to the ridiculous weather – who would have thought that organising this event at the end of March would mean there would be travel problems due to snow! After the church service we had a lunch at one of the colleges in the centre of Cambridge to continue the celebrations. Both boys enjoyed having lots of people there to wrap around their fingers with cuteness.
A special mention must go to the cake…. Although I would have loved to make it myself, I decided that I didn’t want the stress of it having to be finished for Sunday morning, not knowing in advance how much Joel would want to feed on the days running up to the day itself. And I’m glad I did decide this because things have been quite busy this week with one thing and another, and it was Tom’s turn to be ill. So I asked Andrew’s old childminder if she could do it – she would often have amazing-looking cakes ready for family and friends when I used to drop him off, and she’s now applying to get all the paperwork in place to make a proper little business out of it. She didn’t disappoint with this beautiful rainbow design with rainbow sponge inside 🙂 The idea of a rainbow was mine, and she asked if we wanted rainbow sponge too.