Baptisms

Musically, baptism is the most under-represented of the big services that affect the lives of families. In part this is because it has always been more low key than a wedding service, and in part because baptism tends to be either slotted into a normal parish service, or a special short service at which there might not be any music at all.
There aren't many hymns specially for baptism, but there are a good number of hymns and more modern worship songs that are highly appropriate. Here are a few suggestions.

For some of the hymns we've got a MIDI file that will give you and idea of what the tune sounds like - click on the link to hear it.
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful - can be used here for its childlike enthusiasm and because it is dimly remembered from school, but to be honest it's a bit tedious. Only go for this if it's a personal favourite. There are two tunes, the more common All things bright and beautiful, and slightly less common, Royal Oak .
  • Be thou my vision- a lovely Irish tune (same as Lord of All Hopefulness) and words asking for God to be there for us and to inspire us.
  • Breathe on me, breath of God  - the words of this stirring hymn are asking for the Spirit of God to come upon us, and so are highly appropriate in the context of baptism
  • Come down, O love divine - another powerful traditional hymn, asking for the Holy Spirit to fill us, so again highly appropriate for baptism
  • Fight the good fight  - while somehow not quite right for weddings, this vigorous hymn about fighting for God fits well with the aspect of turning to Christ and renouncing evil that is part of the baptism service
  • Give Me Joy in My Heart- this joyful hymn is easy to sing and though not directly relevant to baptism, expresses the congregation's joy.
  • In Christ Alone - a worship song with very appropriate words if you are taking the aspects of Christian baptism seriously. Takes a little picking up, so probably best with a congregation who are used to worship songs.

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Musically, baptism is the most under-represented of the big services that affect the lives of families. In part this is because it has always been more low key than a wedding service, and in part because baptism tends to be either slotted into a normal parish service, or a special short service at which there might not be any music at all.
However, this is a joyful occasion and a special one, and an excellent time to sing.
  • I, the Lord of Sea and Sky  - rightly one of the most popular of the modern worship songs, this is a rousing request to be called by God. Check if the church has a music group - this works a lot better with modern backing than with an organ
  • Lord of All Hopefulness - sung to the attractive Irish folk hymn tune Slane, the positive feel of this hymn with its summary of the day is a good choice for a baptism.
  • Now Thank We All Our God - a stately hymn that has a good celebratory tone to mark the aspect of thanking God for the child being baptised.
  • O Jesus I have Promised - a general, well known hymn that works well for baptism because of the promises made by the baptised, or the godparents on the baby's behalf. Confusingly has several separate tunes in the UK: first there's Wolvercote, then there's Thornbury or you can have Day of Rest or the "modern" tune Hathrop Castle. Also sung to the very Victorian Angel's Story.
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty - slightly more upbeat in tempo but still very traditional and positive hymn
  • River wash over me  - another modern worship song that is particularly appropriate for baptism, with words like "River wash over me, cleanse and make me new..." echoing the biblical river baptisms. Check if the church has a music group - this works a lot better with modern backing than with an organ
  • The King of Love My Shepherd is - the 23rd psalm contrasts the light and dark sides of life, so works well when looking forward to the realities of life. Two tunes - perhaps more common is Dominus Regit Me, but spare a thought for the rather lovely St Columba.
  • The Lord's My Shepherd - like "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" a setting of the 23rd psalm that is a fine choice for a baptism as we think of the child coming into God's fold.

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We quite often get asked where you can get sheet music for a particular hymn. Few hymns are available as separate sheet music. All the hymns and tunes we mention above are in both the main Anglican hymn books: Ancient & Modern New Standard and The New English Hymnal, except for the two worship songs, which are from Songs of Fellowship 1 (River Wash Over Me) and Songs of Fellowship 2 (I, the Lord of Sea and Sky). See our hymn book page for information on buying these from Amazon, but check with your organist first - many will already have access to copies.
If there is no organist available, you might find our hymn accompaniment CDs useful - they enable you to sing hymns without anyone to play. For baptisms, the general set is usually most relevant, but it is worth also taking a look at our cheaper Wedding set, which includes many celebratory hymns, and voluntaries that can be played at the beginning and end of the service.

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If you are going to sing hymns, it is a great help to have a choir along to help with the singing. If you baptism is during the main service, the choir may be in attendance anyway - ask the vicar or priest - but it is unusual for a choir to attend a separate baptism service. However, most choirs would happily attend such a service as they would a wedding for the fees usually charged for singing at a wedding.

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If you are having a choir, you may want them to sing an anthem - usually a more complex piece of music than a hymn that they sing on their own. In a main service this may already be part of the service. There isn't a specific point to have an anthem in a separate baptism service, but there are several points in the service where one would work - have a chat with your vicar or priest. If you do pay to have a choir at the baptism, it would be nice to make the service more special this way. There are plenty of general anthems that would work for baptisms - ask you vicar or priest to get some suggestions from the music director or organist - but here are a few specific thoughts:
  • A Gaelic Blessing (John Rutter) - Rutter is the most popular and tuneful 20th century church composer. His Gaelic Blessing is peaceful and lovely in both words ("Deep peace of the running wave to you, deep peace of the flowing air to you...") and music.
  • Grow in Grace (Archer) - a pleasant, lyrical anthem, but not very well known, so you may have to pay for copies of the music and give them plenty of warning to learn it
  • Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (Bach) - with interspersed twiddly bits on the organ, a serene and ever-popular choice, often used at weddings, but also good for baptisms
  • Lead Me Lord (S. S. Wesley)  - a pleasant, short, simple little piece that fits well with the baptism service because of the request for guidance
  • O Come Ye Servants of the Lord (Tye) - this short, very positive anthem has a good sound for baptisms.
  • O Father for this Little Life (Lole) - a very appropriate anthem for infant baptism, but few choirs will know it, so you would probably have to pay for copies of the music and give them plenty of warning to learn it
  • O Lord Increase our Faith (Loosemore) - a beautiful anthem asking for God to strengthen our faith and endow us with virtues, so ideal for a baptism
  • Panis Angelicus (Franck) - one of the most flexible pieces around, Cesar Franck arranged it for solo, duet and four part choir. The simple, flowing tune is very popular and works well for any occasion
  • This is the Day That the Lord Has Made (anon) - an ideal short anthem, the words carry on "we shall rejoice and be glad in it". Very positive and effective for a baptism.