In the bible, baptism is done by total immersion – the word means to plunge, sink, drench, drown, soak… And it follows our repentance. This can be seen in a number of passages – Acts 2.38, Acts 8.12-13, Acts 9.18 and so on. Jesus himself was baptised, and commanded his followers both to be baptised and to baptise others as they got to know him (Matthew 28.18-20)
Baptism is therefore an act of obedience, and a declaration of our faith in Jesus. It symbolises the fact that God washes away our sin, and also symbolises us following Jesus into the grave (under the water) and being raised to life again (back up from the water). As the bible shows us, we baptise believers in the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, to show that the power of the Trinity is now at work in our lives. There is nothing special about the water itself – it could be a baptistry, or a swimming pool, or a river or even the sea.
The bible links baptism very closely to repentance. Once someone has accepted Jesus, there is no barrier to being baptised, and it doesn’t require any special maturity in our walk with God. In this church we are however careful about baptising young children; whilst their faith is often very real, it is sensible for us to be careful that they do properly understand what this is about before going ahead. The key issue is that we can be clear that the person being baptised has truly repented, with an understanding of what that means. For that reason, we do not baptise babies; instead, we are happy to do a public dedication, where the parents promise in front of the church to seek to bring up their child in the knowledge of God, and the church promises to help and support them with that.