The Rite of Baptism suggests starting at the church door as it is the sacrament of “Entry into the Church”. Here at the Sacred Heart we have a big open space so weather permitting we start outside with the initial welcome. A mini survey in the parish resulted in “welcome” being the most popular word. This is the sort of scene Jesus himself would have been familiar with – an outdoor setting with parents bringing their children to him to be blessed.
It is also stressed how important preparation was for the families, so preparation courses are held on the first Sunday of each month attended by parents of children being baptised that month. This makes for the beginnings of “community”. Each family is visited at home the week before the baptism to ensure that the ceremony becomes personal.
Baptism is a community sacrament but due to the size of the parish, baptisms during Sunday Mass do not prove practical. Joint baptisms of three or four babies take place on most Sunday afternoons. Every two months the recently baptised babies and their parents are invited onto the sanctuary at the 9.45 Family Mass to be presented to the congregation and afterwards to share refreshments.
Music is an important part of the ceremony and we have had grandfathers playing oboes, guitarists, violinists, pianists, solo singers and a godfather from Galicia in North West Spain playing the Gaita Gallega (the equivalent of the Scottish bagpipes).
The ceremony is lively and participative based on the Directory for Masses with Children. Children are encouraged to take an active part by composing bidding prayers, playing instruments and preparing pictures connected with water. Many non-church goers have commented how much they have felt involved on the day and not threatened by something incomprehensible or stuffy. Appropriate scripture readings and bidding prayers are read by members of each family, often in different languages. Over 20 different languages have been spoken over the years, including Cornish & Manx.
When parents are of mixed faiths, the emphasis is “what do we share in common?” Children can grow up to be bridge builders and experience the richness of different cultures and traditions. One letter of appreciation said “I was amazed at the way you bridged the gap between our two faiths – it was very moving. I was used to such a rigid view of the Catholic Church; my faith is entirely restored”.
Follow up pastoral visits encourage families to build community in their respective neighbourhoods. Families who have had their children baptised on the same day often continue their friendship and go on to share the sacraments of reconciliation, first communion and confirmation.
Infant baptisms are a joint celebration in the Parish with up to four families having children baptised on the same day at a beautiful, personal & happy ceremony at 2.00 pm. Baptisms take place on most Sundays throughout the year with the exception of the first Sunday of the month.
A preparation course is held from 2.00 – 4.00 pm, usually on the first Sunday of each month, to which parents of children being baptised that month are expected to attend.
Each family is visited at home the week before the ceremony to ensure that the ceremony becomes personal & to organise readings, music etc.
Around the time of Candlemas, the babies baptised in the past year are invited onto the sanctuary at the 9.45 Family Mass to be presented to the community.
For initial bookings & further information contact the presbytery on 020 8946 0305 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.