Symbols employed in a baptism service

A number of important symbols will be used during the baptism service:

The sign of the Cross


At baptism, the priest makes the sign of the cross on your child’s forehead. This is like an invisible badge to show that Christians are united with Christ and must not be ashamed to stand up for their faith in him.

The priest says: “Christ claims you for his own. Receive the sign of the cross. Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.” The priest may invite you and the godparents to sign the cross on your child’s forehead after she has done so, or to sign themselves as well.


The priest will then pour water on your child’s head. Water is a sign of washing and cleansing. The water used in baptism is ‘normal’ water, except it has been blessed (usually during the service of baptism). In baptism, the water is a sign of being washed free from sin and beginning a new life with Christ.

Water is a sign of life, but also a symbol of death. When we are baptised, our old life is buried in the waters (like drowning) and we are raised to new life with Christ.


After baptism in water, the priest anoints the child with oil. This is a sign of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.

The priest says: “May God, 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.”

The welcome

The church congregation will say some formal words to acknowledge that your child has joined the Church, and to show how pleased they are to have them among us.


Jesus is called ‘the light of the world.’ A large candle is lit at the front of the church just before the baptism service starts. At the end of the service, a smaller candle is lit from it as a reminder of the light that has come into your child’s life. It is up to you, the child’s godparents, and the church community, to help your child reject the world of darkness and follow a way of life that reflects goodness and light, and shares the light with others.