Today’s baptism of Prince George in the intimate setting of the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace marks another important step in the life of the future king. Even though only close family and friends will be attending, it’s another excuse for the royalist media to get just a little bit over excited. To mark the occasion and to make sure journalists understand the point of the ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby kindly released a video yesterday explaining what will happen and what the point of baptism really is.
For those who are familiar with church rituals this might come across as rather patronising, but if you stray outside of church circles knowledge of such things quickly diminishes. Yet despite religion being on the wane in this country, it would be inconceivable that Prince George would not be Christened. In fact his parents have no option given that as things stand he will in time hold the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’. And there is no chance of him being able to hold this position if he has not been baptised. However if this event was little more than a formal procedure for William and Kate, it would be a crying shame. This is much more than an initiation ceremony. As Welby says in his video:
‘Baptism is at its heart about the gift from God, about God’s gift of life, not just ordinary physical life, but also the offer of spiritual life to all of us, to life forever.’
There are solemn promises to be made by the parents to the child and to God. Assuming they will be using the Church of England’s Common Worship liturgy, these are the vows they will make:
Archbishop of Canterbury:
Parents and godparents, the Church receives this child with joy. Today we are trusting God for his growth in faith. Will you pray for him, draw him by your example into the community of faith and walk with him in the way of Christ?
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge:
With the help of God, we will.
In baptism this child begins his journey in faith. You speak for him today. Will you care for him, and help him to take his place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?
With the help of God, we will.
In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous 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?
I reject them.
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
I renounce them.
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
I repent of them.
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
I turn to Christ.
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
I submit to Christ.
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
I come to Christ.
Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.
All (to Prince George):
Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified. Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life. May almighty God deliver you from the powers of darkness, restore in you the image of his glory and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ. Amen.
These are not words that should be spoken lightly. My prayer today is that William and Kate will be able to speak them with honesty and conviction, that the faith they will be speaking of is alive in their hearts and that they will desire to bring Prince George up to serve God fully as well as this country.
These are the words Justin Welby says to Prince George taken from the Church of Scotland’s liturgy:
For you Jesus Christ came into the world.
For you he lived and showed God’s love.
For you he suffered the darkness of Calvary
And cried out at the last, ‘it is accomplished’.
For you he triumphed over death and rose to new life.
For you he reigns at God’s right hand.
All this he did for you,
though you do not know it yet.
UPDATE: Prayers for the Royal Christening have now been released by the C of E:
Prayer for HRH Prince George
We thank almighty God for the gift of new life.
May God the Father, who has received you by baptism into his Church,
pour upon you the riches of his grace,
that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim people
you may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit,
and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.
Prayer for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Faithful and loving God,
bless those who care for these children
and grant them your gifts of love, wisdom and faith.
Pour upon them your healing and reconciling love,
and protect their home from all evil.
Fill them with the light of your presence
and establish them in the joy of your kingdom,
through Jesus Christ our Lord