Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement was announced with the news that the bride-to-be would be baptised and confirmed into the Church of England before the wedding.
Commenting on the fact that the couple have chosen to be married in church, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, ‘I am very, very sure, after conversations, that this is no tick-box exercise for them, “Oh we ought to get married in a church”. There is a profound sense of commitment and seriousness both about faith, and about their lives together, which is quite inspirational.
‘People will look at them and they’ll see a model of how two people commit their lives to one another before God.’
So what is baptism and confirmation? Baptism is a sign of the start of someone’s journey as a Christian. It follows a pattern Jesus set in the Bible. Eye witnesses to Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan about 2,000 years ago said: ‘Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”’
In the Church of England baptism may involve water being poured on your head during a special church service, or there may be a special pool and you will be fully immersed in the water. In baptism, the church congregation thanks God for his gift of life and publicly acknowledges his love. There is the prayerful expectation that God will fill each person being baptised with his Holy Spirit, enabling them to be followers of Jesus.
The friends and family of the person being confirmed attend the service, and together with the local Christian community, they promise their support and prayer for the person being confirmed.
Questions and promises
The bishop, or Archbishop leading the service explains ‘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.’
Meghan will be asked a series of questions:
- Are you ready with your own mouth and from your own heart to affirm your faith in Jesus Christ?
- Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
- Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
- Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
- Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
- Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
- Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
She will also be given this challenge: ‘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.’
During preparation for baptism and confirmation, Meghan will have an opportunity to discuss what these promises mean, and to consider what it means for her personally to follow Jesus in everyday life.
As well as marking the start of a person’s journey as a Christian, baptism and confirmation also welcome new Christians into God’s family, the worldwide church.
During the service the whole congregation is asked: ‘People of God, will you welcome these candidates and uphold them in their life in Christ?’
And everyone in the congregation replies: ‘With the help of God, we will.’
The whole congregation will also say together what Christians believe about God ‘the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth’ about believing and trusting in his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Meghan will then be baptised ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
Prayers and blessings
There are several prayers, blessings and Bible readings during the service and a special prayer for Meghan, as there is for any person being baptised and confirmed:
Almighty and ever-living God,
you have given these your servants new birth
in baptism by water and the Spirit,
and have forgiven them all their sins.
Let your Holy Spirit rest upon them:
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding;
the Spirit of counsel and inward strength;
the Spirit of knowledge and true godliness;
and let their delight be in the fear of the Lord.
Often the newly confirmed person is given a lighted candle at the end of the service with these words:
God has delivered us from the dominion of darkness
and has given us a place with the saints in light.
You have received the light of Christ;
walk in this light all the days of your life.
The whole service is designed to show that God calls people ‘out of darkness into his marvellous light’ and aims to celebrate the beginning of a Christian’s journey, following Jesus as part of the Christian church and taking Christ’s light out into the world.