For use in the Archdeaconry of Pretoria East

The outline for this course is  primarily taken from the Grahamstown Baptism course which was compiled by the Rev. Duncan Buchanan. It is here re-presented in a 4 session format for use by any  suitably ‘qualified’ persons needing to lead Baptism preparation courses in the archdeaconry  of Pretoria East.

1.      Practical Considerations

a.       Four couples form an ideal group size for a Baptism preparation course.  Both parents should attend, and wherever possible, one or more of the godparents of the child to be baptised should also attend. This could differ from parish to parish; for example some of the predominantly Black Parishes may run courses for many more couples than four, and may also insist on the presence of Godparents at each session.

b.      Each of the four sessions should be no longer than one and a half hours, including tea at the end of each session. A good time is 7.30 –9pm (tea at 8.45-9)

c.       It is helpful to rotate the venue from one home to the next, so that each couple has a turn to host the group and to stay at home! It may also be preferred to hold the course on the church property

2.    Pre-suppositions

a.     This document presupposes that Infant Baptism is Biblical & consistent with  the Christian Faith

b.     It assumes that Baptism is understood as the great Sacrament of Redemption & incorporation into the life & body of Christ, & is therefore never to be indiscriminate or to be undertaken lightly for the wrong reasons

c.     The document also assumes that Baptism will normally take place at a public service and that parents, no matter what their state of commitment to Christ, are in need of preparation for the Baptism of their child

3.    Course Outline in overview

 a.       Introduction

The meaning of Baptism which could include a short history of Holy Baptism, a group task to discover a comprehensive definition of Baptism

b.      Understanding of Baptism as incorporation into the church

This should include developing an understanding of the comparison between the human family and the family of God or The  Church   primarily by the  use of a group task to discover the characteristics of the human family and the Church Family.

c.       Understanding the place of children in the family and in the church

This should include a group task of prioritizing the three most important areas of responsibility of parents towards their children, as well as the three most important responsibilities the church has to the child. As well, this session should include some aspects of the role of godparents.

d.      An examination of the promises which will be undertaken by  parents during the service of Baptism

 This should include an examination of the practicalities of the actual service of Holy Baptism as well as a look at the marks of a Christian Home, with a view to enabling parents(and Godparents)to fulfil the promises which they undertake at the forthcoming service.

 4.    Sessions in detail

SESSION 1, INTRODUCTION  A history, the meaning and the definition of Holy Baptism.

LEADER Spend time in introducing the couples/icebreakers/ giving a broad course outline as in (3) above; then introduce the subject for this session:

This session should include the following:

i.                     A Short History of Holy Baptism

ii.                   An understanding of the meaning of Baptism

iii.                  A group task to discover a comprehensive definition of Baptism

 LEADER i. A Short History of Holy Baptism

Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as His children & makes us members of Christ’s body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.

As with each of the sacraments of the Christian church, there is an outward & visible sign (in this instance, 3-fold Baptism in water using the Trinitarian name of God) signifying an inward & spiritual grace(union with Christ in His death, & resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit). Infants are baptised so that they can be brought up to share citizenship in the New Covenant, membership in Christ& redemption by God.

Jesus was a Jew, and thus circumcised as a sign of the covenant which God had made with Abraham & his descendants,(recorded in Luke 2.21). But infants could not be expected to know the significance of his initiation rite and so a second stage of initiation was introduced in Jewish practice……………Bar (son of) mitzvah(the Law)………the equivalent of which in the Christian tradition is the rite of Confirmation. Thus, as circumcision as an entry ritual is perceived as a sign of incorporation into the Covenant community for the Jew, so is Baptism seen as a sign of incorporation into the new Covenant/Christian community.

Later in Jesus’ life, at the start of His public ministry, He underwent Baptism in the Jordan, and His Baptism is the basis for our Christian doctrine & custom. He called for adult Jews to be baptised as a sign of their commitment to the call of religious obedience. In the early days of the church, Baptism was administered straight away on profession of faith and repentance. The New Testament tells the story of many such adult Baptisms (Acts 2:36-42,Acts 8:26-38, Acts 10 Acts16:15&33, Acts 19:1-7& I Cor.1:16). Broadly, today, there are two ways of practising Baptism:

1.      To insist that only adult believers can be baptised

2.      As Anglicans do, to allow infants to be baptised in accordance with the provisos laid down by the Church.

As there is criticism of infant Baptism,  it seems important to clarify the Anglican position.

 A communal affair

 In the New Testament Church, decisions were communal affairs; thus we read in Acts that when heads of families were baptised, their families were as well (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33 & Acts 18:8). There were probably young children in each of these families, therefore it is perfectly safe to contend that infant Baptism is Biblical in its communal nature, where infants were/are raised as Christian children by Christian parents.


The notion of Godparents (as early as 154) arose out of the need for assistance to parents in this spiritual task, as  life expectancy was far shorter then  than it is today. In the 1989 APB the number of Godparents is not prescribed, but they are assumed to be practising Christians, and are required to answer the questions as much as by way of re-affirming their own faith as making the promises on behalf of their godchildren.


The New Testament church practised Baptism en masse at the  Easter service , following an intense period of instruction during Lent. However, as Christianity spread, the Bishop could not be in more than one place at one time and so the system has developed whereby Christian initiation……..the 2 sacraments of Baptism & Confirmation were separated out and the parish Priest/deacon is empowered to baptise, whilst the Bishop retains the responsibility of Confirmation.

LEADER ii  An understanding of the meaning of Baptism

Look at what the New Testament says abut Baptism:

a.      Matthew 28:16-20 Emphasize mission into all the world

                  -    Coming to Christ is the pre requisite

-         Discipleship is the object

-         Baptism is in the context of making people into Jesus’ disciples

-         Teaching is important in relation to Baptism

-         The Church- a company of disciples is presupposed in the whole passage.

     b.      Romans6:3-11 Emphasize the Activity of God in Christ-our faith in Him

-         In his death & resurrection Jersus ‘went under’ & ‘came up’. In Baptism the candidate goes under the water & comes up out of it. Baptism involves dying to the old way of life & rising in union with Christ to the new life.

-         Baptism means being united in a new relationship to Christ& this involves being incorporated in His Body, the Church.. This life ‘in Christ’ begins at Baptism & is renewed regularly in the Holy Eucharist.

-         The new life expressed by faith means obedience to God

     c.    John 3:1-8 Emphasize  Christ’s initiative

-         The action of the Holy Spirit in Baptism

-         The rebirth & new life are not worked out in 5 minutes. Baptism is like planting a seed which needs careful watering & nurturing, which is where parentas & godparents come in.

 iii     A Group Task to discover a comprehensive definition of Baptism     

 LEADER For the last 15 minutes ask everyone to try, in the light of the Bible passages, to write a comprehensive definition of Baptism

-         emphasis is on more than simply naming

-         it is on the loving, redeeming activity of God as He brings His whole creation back into a relationship with Him

-         it involves the people He choses- to be His people and to witness to His love.In the New Testament, to be united to Christ or to be ‘in Christ’ always means to be made a limb or member of His Body, the Church, the People of God-which is what begins in Baptism.

 SESSION 2 . Understanding Baptism as incorporation into the Church

 LEADER Spend a short time going over the definition of Baptism as arrived at in the first session, then introduce subject of the second session (Baptism as incorporation into the Church)

 Spend 10 mins gathering the group’s thoughts on their individual understandings of what they think the ‘church’ is

Then spend 20 mins gathering/summarizing their understanding  about the Church as

-         the “Body of Christ” (1Cor.12:4-14,24030)

-         the “Household of God” (Ephesians 2:19)

 Spend a short time (5 mins) focussing on the positive ideals of the Church as portrayed by 1Cor& Ephesians 2, pointing out that the negative aspects of the Church come about because of sin. Encourage an understanding of the need for interdependence,a sense of belonging and the need to help, encourage and grow one another in the body.

 Now focus (10 mins) on their experience/understanding of “family”

-         what is it for?

-         What happens when people disregard the rest of the family?

-         What constitutes a member of a family?

-         How is she/he brought in?

 Lastly, spend time (10-15 mins)getting to the point that if the Church is the family of God,  it has the same basic requirements as a human family

-         it must have a purpose

-         it must have members (who join by Baptism)

-         the members need to be committed, both to the family & to each other

-         The Church, as a family, has commitment to the Father of the family

-         The church family suffers when members ignore it or do their own thing

-         Membership of the family involves the decision of at least 2 members of the family

 Final word for this session “Because Baptism means joining the family of God, it takes place when the church family is present at its worship and can welcome the newcomer.

 SESSION 3 Understanding the place of children in the family and in the Church

 LEADER .In this session we will look at the place of children in the family (at home) and in the Church . In the previous sessions we looked at the meaning of Baptism and at what the Church is.

 Task 1.     1.(5 mins) Write down, in order of importance, 3 basic areas of responsibility of parents towards children

                   2. (10 mins)share this with one other, realigning your ideas to agree on the 3 areas

 3.      (20mins) Repeat the exercise as a group, enlarging the list to not more than 5 responsibilities.

 LEADER:Ideas such as Love, Security, Education, Attitudes & Manners, should emerge, but most important is the realization that most of these ideas, if not all, come about as a result of the parents’ role/initiative.

 Task 2

Repeat the exercise of Task 1, but this time, thinking of the Church family’s responsibilities to its children. (5,10,20 mins).

 LEADER: Try to help the group see if there are connections between task 1 & 2.


1.The need for a Christian home, in which Jesus Christ is Lord, Christian standards of behaviour prevail and where Christ can be ‘caught’ rather than ‘taught’. 

                  -    Support from the church family in helping to create a Christian home could come in the form of:

-         housegroup membership where growth in the Christian walk of the parents can be encouraged, family members prayed for

-         Godparents who will pray for the child

 2.      The need for an active Church family which takes its responsibilities to its children seriously in the form of:

-         care for children’s needs in Sunday Schools, family services and young peoples groups.

 Task 3

 Following the above discussions, give the parents 15 mins to write a prayer for their child, and complete the session by giving the opportunity for each couple to pray their prayers out loud within the group.

SESSION 4 A look at the forthcoming Service of Baptism

(Need Prayer books open on page 380)

LEADER Start the session by using one of the prayers that the parents wrote at the last session

 The service of Baptism in the APB  generally follows the Gospel and sermon  and consists of the following sections;

 1.      The Introduction

 Spend 5 mins going over paragraphs 38 ,40,41 all of which are done by the Priest and which cover a definition of Baptism as a sacrament embodying, Salvation by repentance& faith, unity with Christ in His death, forgiveness of sins, membership of His Body and resurrection with Christ to new life in the Spirit. The Priest then states the need for babies/children who are too young to profess their faith to be helped, encouraged and prayed for , by those who have brought them for Baptism………….parents & godparents. He/She  asks these people  a question as to their acceptance of these responsibilities, to which they reply:

With God’s help I will

 2.  The Renunciation

Spend some time(30mins) discussing with the group, what they mean by saying three times in para 44: I renounce them (the devil & all the spiritual forces, evil powers of this world and sinful desires). Explain that the priest will then ask the congregation to pray for them (para45) and will then pray for them hersElf/himself (para46).

 3.  The Blessing of the water ( paras 47,48)

 This is done by the Priest,(can just read through it together)

 4.       The Allegiance

 Spend some time (20 mins) looking at the statement: I believe & trust in Him, which occurs three times as promises taken by the parents & godparents in para50. Mention para51, which is directed at the congregation and demonstrates their involvement/responsibility towards the baptism candidates, and look  at para 52 , which once again commands the commitment by parents/godparents to  bring up their children in the love & fear of the Lord.

 5.   The Baptism

 Parents/godparents now present their children to the priest, naming them clearly, so that the priest can state the name as she/he baptizes in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 6. The Welcome

 This is usually done at the same time as each child is baptised and the priest makes a sign of the cross on the forehead while stating para 56. A candle is then given to the parent of each child with the priest saying the words of para57. The welcome is concluded by now including the congregation who say para 58 together.

 7. The Prayers

 The service of Baptism is concluded by saying one/a few of the prayers from paras 60-63.

 The leader should conclude this final session by asking parents

 1.      To make a decision ,following the Baptism course, as to whether they wish to go ahead with the Baptism of their child.

2.      If so, to rewrite the prayer for their child

 Finish off by reading/praying their prayers together  as a group