Barham Downs Churches

  • The Rectory
  • The Street, Barham
  • Canterbury
  • Kent
  • CT4 6PA

01227 941561
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So ... you have been asked to be a Godparent! Congratulations!

This means that the parents trust you, and want you to play an influential part in their child’s spiritual development. Being a Godparent is a great privilege, but also an important responsibility. Your task is to be a channel for the love of God, and to help the child come to Christian faith for themselves. This leaflet is to help you prepare for the Baptism (or Christening) Service in Church, and also gives ideas about how you can best continue this role in the coming years.

Preparing to be a Godparent

As a godparent, you have a very special role.**

  • It’s about helping the child to grow up to know God and be a person of faith and trust.
  • It’s about supporting them as they develop a spiritual life of their own, expressed in prayer and worship.
  • It’s about encouraging them to grow to Christian maturity and be a person of generosity and love.

Practically it is expected that godparents have some faith of their own, that most have been baptized themselves, and that at least one has also been confirmed. Baptism is, after all, joining the church, so it would be very difficult for someone to make the promises if they did not believe.

But, being realistic, most of us are at different stages on our own pilgrimage of faith, and many have doubts and uncertainties. It may even be that everything has been so busy that you have never really had the time and opportunity to stop and reflect on what life is all about.

We therefore encourage you to learn more for yourself:

  • Talk to the Priest (they will be happy to make time to see you)

  • Read a good book

  • Do some internet research

The Promises you will make

During the service, you will be asked to make a serious commitment to your new task.
Firstly the Minister will ask if you are willing to take on this responsibility.
“Parents and godparents, the child whom you have brought for baptism depends chiefly on you for the help and encouragement he needs. Are you willing to give it to him by your prayers, by your example, and by your teaching?” Parents and godparents answers: “I am willing.”

Secondly you will be asked, in as far as you are able, to try and put yourself in a right relationship with God. Every one of us has failed in a variety of ways, so we will all be sharing in these words - saying sorry for all that is wrong within us and turning towards Christ who gives us strength to live more holy lives.

“Those who bring children to be baptised must affirm their allegiance to Christ and their rejection of all that is evil. It is your duty to bring up this child to fight against evil and to follow Christ. Therefore I ask these questions which you must answer for yourselves and for this child.
“Do you turn to Christ?”
 Answer: “I turn to Christ.”

“Do you repent of your sins?”
 Answer: “I repent of my sins.”

“Do you renounce evil?”
 Answer: “I renounce evil.”

Thirdly we will join together in declaring the Christian faith - faith in God who is known to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These are the core beliefs that are accepted by all denominations of the Christian faith worldwide, and are not merely the beliefs of our particular church.
“You have brought this child to baptism. You must now declare before God and his Church the Christian faith into which he is to be baptised, and in which you will help him to grow. You must answer for yourselves and for this child.

"Do you believe and trust in God the Father, who made the world?”
 Answer: “I believe and trust in him.”

“Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ, who redeemed mankind?”
 Answer: “I believe and trust in him.”

“Do you believe and trust in his Holy Spirit, who gives life to the people of God?”
 Answer: “I believe and trust in him.”

The Church Service

Sometimes the baptism takes place within a regular service at church, though usually one of the less formal ones. At other times it takes place on a separate occasion, and when this happens the parents are requested to bring the child back to a regular service so that the words of ‘welcome’ can be done in the presence of the wider church family.

You will all be given a full order of service, and it includes the promises that you have to make. Very often the first part of the service takes place with everybody sitting in the pews, and then all are invited to gather around the font for the baptism itself. Traditionally fonts were placed near the door, as they symbolize the ceremony of entry into the church family.

The Priest will also make it clear when you have to actually say the promises, and where you have to stand. Usually the godparents stand next to the parents when gathering around the font.

During the ceremony, water is poured on the child’s head “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”. This is in accordance with Jesus’ instructions that are recorded in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 28, v. 19) The priest will then make the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead, a symbolic badge of belonging to Jesus.

Also in the service a lit candle will be given to the child (or to someone on their behalf). Light is a very ancient symbol, both for Jesus being our light to lead us through this dark world, and also for our calling as Christians to be a light to help others.

At the end of the service you will be given a small certificate to remind you of the task that you have taken on, and to encourage you to pray for your godchild. We hope that this will be the start of a very special relationship between you.

What else should I do?

After becoming a godparent, try to keep a good relationship with your godchild, and hopefully one day you may have the opportunity to share with them about faith, or any other issues they may have. It is often good for a young person to have someone they can talk to confidentially outside the immediate family. May we suggest a few things that might help keep a good relationship:

  • Try to remember their birthday and send a card or small present. Don’t forget Christmas, and perhaps also the anniversary of their baptism.
  • See that they have opportunities to hear and understand what the Christian way of life is all about. As they get older, you might take them along to church with you if there is an appropriate Family Service.
  • Try and remember to say a short prayer for them regularly - that they may be kept safe and grow to be a wise and faithful Christian.

What about presents?

You may well wish to give your godchild a present to mark the occasion - there is usually a good selection of meaningful items like crosses, and also excellent Christian books for children, at the local Christian bookshop.
But the best gift of all that you can give is your time and your love as they grow up. We live in complex times, and Christian faith is often ridiculed, but if you can help them on their spiritual journey, you will have given them a real treasure!

** Being a Godparent should not be confused with being appointed as a Legal Guardian, which is an entirely different role that parents often ask a friend to take on in the event of their deaths.