Baptisms and Thanksgivings
If you have recently had a baby – many congratulations! We hope and pray all goes well as you welcome a new member of your family.
The Church of England offers two different services to mark the birth of a new child – a ‘Service of Thanksgiving for the birth of a child’, or a Service of Baptism (often called a ‘christening’). At Christ Church we do both of these within our main Sunday service at 10.30am.
Many parents of new babies say that, as part of an occasion to celebrate with their family and friends, the most important thing they want to do is to say thank you to God for the gift of their child, and to ask God's blessing at the start of the child's life.
The Service of Thanksgiving does just this – you will gather with your child, friends and family at the front of church and there will be prayers of thanks for the gift of your child, you name the child in front of the congregation and the vicar will hold your child and say a special prayer of blessing. You will be presented with a gospel which you can read with your child as they grow up.
You are not asked to make promises about the Christian faith, nor promise to bring your child regularly to church as you would be in a Baptism Service. The "god parents" you choose are called "Supporting Friends". They play an important part in the service but, unlike baptism, they do not have to be baptised themselves.
A Service of Baptism
Baptism is a biblical response by those who want to make a commitment of faith in Jesus Christ. When a young child is baptised the parents and the godparents make those promises of faith on behalf of the child. Firstly they promise to bring the child regularly to church, teach them about the Christian faith, and pray for them. The parents and godparents are then asked to make a public commitment of believing and following Jesus Christ. The child is signed with the sign of the cross, is baptised with the water poured over their head (as a sign of God’s forgiveness) and is given a lighted candle which symbolises the light of Christ in their life.
Like a Service of Thanksgiving it is personal, includes prayers of thanks, and prayers for the parents and others who will help care for the child. Given the promises being made, godparents themselves need to have been baptised.
We can only baptise at Christ Church those who live within the parish or who have been regularly worshipping with us for six months or more.
What is right for your child?
There is no right or wrong choice. Some people choose a thanksgiving because, with its emphasis on saying thank you, it does exactly what they feel they want to do, or because it does not involve personal statements of faith that some do not feel ready to make. Others choose it because they would prefer their child to make their own decision about baptism when they are older.
Given the promises involved in a Baptism Service, we do ask those bringing a child for baptism to come to church regularly before the service is booked and to participate in baptism preparation, which covers the meaning of baptism and will enable you to ask any questions about the promises you will be making. The preparation is done very informally over two sessions, usually in your home and at a time to suit you.
Do remember that it is possible to have a Thanksgiving Service, and follow it at a later date – as and when you or your child feel ready - with a Baptism.
If you are interested in either of these services, do speak to the Vicar who will be very happy to meet up and talk through these options with you.