Baptism may be described as the "entry level" sacrament because it provides the means whereby people become Christians. In most cases, in the Church of England, people are baptised as babies or as very young children, with parents and godparents making promises on their behalf. However, baptism is open to "children" of all ages, and it is becoming increasingly common for adults who have "missed out" during childhood to seek baptism at the same time as their own children.
Baptism is a sacrament which is particularly rich in symbolism.
Baptism admits people into The Church (not just this church, or even just the Church of England). The universal nature of the sacrament is emphasised by anointing those about to be baptised with the Oil of Catechumens. This oil has been used to anoint those preparing for baptism from at least the 2nd Century. The oil which we use was blessed by the Bishop in Canterbury Cathedral during Holy Week.
The essential part of baptism is a threefold sprinkling with water in which we are reminded that, through this sacrament, we die with Christ and rise again with him. Some people think of the three sprinkles as reminding us of the three days that Christ spent in the grave: others think of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose name we are baptised. If we think about the ways in which we use water in our ordinary lives, this can lead us to a fuller understanding of the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows upon us at our baptism.
We give the newly baptised a lighted candle to show that they have passed from darkness into light.
After the sprinkling with water the baptised are anointed with the Oil of the Chrism. This is oil that was used to anoint kings and priests in Old Testament times, and it reminds us that through our baptism we take on a share in Christ's Kingship and Priesthood. This oil is also used during confirmation and ordination.