A new baby is a gift from God. We as a church rejoice with you in the birth (or adoption) of your child. Many people want to bring their baby to church to thank God and to ask for his blessing. When people brought little ones to Jesus he welcomed them, took them in his arms and prayed for them. We want to do the same today. In years gone by people used to bring babies to church to be given their Christian names (to be ‘christened’). The state has now taken over this role from the church. Babies are given their names when the birth is registered. The church is still keen to welcome children, but the welcome services we now offer are purely Christian and do not have the same civic and legal significance as they once did.
We offer two ways of bringing children to church for thanksgiving and prayer.
1. Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child
This is based on what Jesus did when people brought children to him. It is for anyone at all. The parents bring their child to a Sunday morning church service. During the service the church joins them in giving thanks to God. The minister receives the child and prays for him or her and for the family. Family friends stand with the family as sponsors (which are like godparents, but without making specific promises of Christian commitment). The family are also given a Bible, so that they may bring up their child to have the chance to find out for themselves about the Christian faith.
2. Baptism (Christening) Service
In a baptism the minister also receives the child and prays for the family, but because this is the first step into church membership the parents and godparents have to make solemn declarations and promises about their own personal Christian faith and commitment. These include:
- Christian beliefs and commitment
- Church membership and regular attendance
- Teaching the child the Christian faith
- Living a Christian lifestyle.
The assumption in a baptism service is that, because of the faith and commitment of parents to Christ and His church, children will share in the commitment of their family. For parents who are unable to commit themselves to this, baptism will not be the best choice – though if parents want to talk and think through the possibility of becoming committed Christians we will be happy to help.
Thanksgiving or Baptism?
What matters most in making our choice of services is that what we do and say has integrity. In an age where many people profess to believe in God, but not a real commitment to Christianity, it is good to know the Church of England both respects that position and still wants to accommodate that in the services on offer.
There is no discrimination against children who have been welcomed at a Thanksgiving Service rather than a Baptism. Indeed it is lovely to see from time to time older children and teenagers coming to be baptised as a result of their own choice – that makes more sense than parents making promises or commitments which they don’t want to keep.
Before you decide for certain, one of our ministers will fix up to meet you and talk through the different services with you, so you can ask your questions and get the best advice before making a decision.
Is there a cost?
There is a small fee for certificates given for Baptism. For certificates issued at the time, it is £12, and a short certificate is £9. Do take care of your certificate as your child may need it at some stage in the future.
What do I do first?
The first thing you need to do is to fix up an appointment with the Rector to talk through the service choices. You need to do this before planning any dates! The easiest way to do this is to speak to him after one of the services.
How do we confirm a date?
Thanksgivings and Baptisms take place during Sunday morning services. We recommend the 10.15am Service, which is family-friendly with children’s activities. Please remember that we cannot confirm a baptism date until you have completed the necessary preparation. The date of your service will depend in part on whether you have a Thanksgiving or a Baptism. We do not usually baptise or give thanks for more than two children in any service (unless three or four are all from one family!)
Booking a service
This is straightforward. Get in touch with the Rector to check the availability of particular dates, then complete the appropriate form which will confirm the booking, and you can discuss with him any special arrangements.
Booking a Baptism
Clergy have a responsibility to prepare parents who request baptism for their children. In Waverton that preparation usually requires a commitment to regular attendance at one of the main services, at least one further visit to your home to talk through the issues of Christian belief and lifestyle, and sometimes a further time of preparation.
Here are some issues you should be thinking about, as they are among the matters we will normally raise during the preparation for a baptism service:
- Am I happy to be known publicly as a committed practising Christian?
- Am I ready to set my child the example of regular church attendance?
- Am I seeking to grow in my love of God?
- Is my lifestyle compatible with Jesus Christ’s teaching?
- Do I regularly turn from sin and turn to Christ?
Also – start to think about Godparents. They need to be confirmed themselves and normally 2 Godmothers and 1 Godfather for girls and 2 Godfathers and 1 Godmother for boys. The promises made by parents and Godparents are identical to those asked in the Confirmation service, so parents considering a Baptism for their child, who have not yet been confirmed, will be encouraged to join in our Christianity Explored group to consider confirmation for themselves as part of their preparation.
What if only one partner can promise a Christian commitment?
It is not unusual for one partner in a marriage to have a stronger faith than the other. In a family where one person wants to express their commitment to Christ, and to bring their children up as committed Christians, if their partner does not object to that commitment, a baptism service is the most appropriate to choose.
A partner who is uncomfortable with the commitments that a baptism requires, will not be asked to promise them. At that part of the service, promises can be made facing the minister, with most of the congregation behind, so there is no attention drawn to those simply not speaking at that point. With the support of godparents who are committed Christians (which they must promise to be), there should be no embarrassment for a partner not wanting to make the promises. It is easiest to talk this issue through with the minister when you see him.