Baptism is a very special moment on the journey of faith. It is a moment when God's presence and blessing meets us, and it is a moment when we make our personal commitment of faith in Jesus as Lord.
Normally baptism takes place by full immersion in water as part of a public act of worship. It signifies the end of our old life and of being born again to new life in Christ. It speaks of repentance and cleansing, of being united with Christ in his death and resurrection, and of witnessing to the call of God upon our lives. As the Apostle Paul says, 'We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.' (Romans 6:3,4)
Baptism is also about receiving God's Spirit for service in the church and in the world. It is often accompanied by the laying on of hands as a sign of commissioning, and by being received into membership of the church.
The vast majority of Christian churches affirm baptism as a moment when we receive God's gift and respond in faith, but not all practice believer's baptism. Many baptise those who are too young to make their own response of commitment to Christian discipleship, and so parents make promises on their behalf that are later 'confirmed' by the person themselves when they are of an age to do so.
There are many reasons why believers choose to be baptised.
Jesus set an example: Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22). Therefore, to be baptised is to be obedient to the path set out by Jesus.
Jesus commands us: In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus says, 'All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'
When a person decides to be baptised they will normally have a period of preparation, during which the church (usually in the person of the minister) will help them understand more about the Christian faith and the meaning of baptism. This usually takes place in the weeks before baptism.
A minister normally baptises. He or she will hold the person being baptised, placing one hand on their back and the other holding their clasped hands. They will then say the words, 'I baptise you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit', and plunge the person being baptised backwards so that they are fully immersed in the water, before raising them back up to standing position. They then leave the water.
The person baptised will often be welcomed into church membership at communion in the same service or at the next opportunity.