Special Services : Christenings
Many congratulations on the birth of your child. You have both a wonderful gift and a big responsibility! Here at St John’s we want to celebrate with you and to support you. We have many groups and activities to help your child grow in faith as he or she gets older.
The information on this page is to help you get started with the first steps which, for most people, is a service of Baptism (which is sometimes known as a Christening) or a Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child.
Christian Baptism is a sacrament which signifies spiritual cleansing and rebirth. It is the act by which a person is admitted to the membership of the Christian Church. Baptism marks the beginning of a lifetime’s journey of turning away from evil and living a Christian life. Because Baptism is not a private affair, but includes joining the Christian Church, our Baptism services take place in one of our main Sunday services.
As part of the service of Baptism, parents, along with godparents, are asked to make some solemn promises. The promises are: first, that they will pray for the child; second, that they will bring the child up as a Christian; third, that they will set the child a good example of Christian living; and fourth, that they will bring the child to church to be part of the church’s life and worship. This is a robust commitment to make in today’s increasingly secular society, and is something to be thought through seriously. For this reason we ask parents who are seeking Baptism for their child to take part in a preparation course. There are various possible ways of doing this, and we’d be happy to talk with you about the options.
The role of godparents is to help parents bring up the child in the life of the church, and to set a Christian example through the life they lead. Being asked to be a godparent is not only a compliment and a privilege but also a responsibility. Godparents are asked to share in the Christian life of a young child. This is why the Church of England requires that all godparents be baptized themselves, and preferably also confirmed.
You can have as many godparents as you wish, but every child should have at least three, two of the same sex and at least one of the opposite sex to the child. This has been the normal pattern in the Church of England since the 13th century! Parents may be godparents for their own children, providing they have at least one other godparent. If your circumstances mean that you are finding it difficult to work out what to do about godparents, please do talk to us about it - there are things we can do to help.
As an alternative to Baptism, we can also conduct the service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. This also takes place during one of our main Sunday Services, usually on the first Sunday of the month.
In the Thanksgiving service, parents are asked whether they receive the child as a gift from God, and whether they wish to seek God’s blessing. They also have the option to name the child formally if they wish.
There are a number of reasons why parents choose to have a Thanksgiving service rather than a Baptism. For some, it is a matter of leaving the decision to be baptized for the child to make later in life. Others find that the promises they are asked to make in the Baptism service are not appropriate for where they are at on their own spiritual journey. The Thanksgiving service offers a first-class alternative which allows a family to celebrate the birth of a child, to thank God for that child, and to pray for God’s blessing for the new life ahead.
Godparents are asked to promise that they will do all that they can to support you in the upbringing of your child. You can have as many godparents as you like.
If you would like to explore the possibility of a service for your child, the first thing to do is to come to church on a Sunday, if you haven’t already done so. The 10:45 morning service is where we usually conduct Thanksgivings and Baptisms, normally on the first Sunday of the month, and you need to make sure you are happy with what you find!
After the service, there is an information point in the lounge. The people there will welcome you, and help you to fill in an “Initial Enquiry Form”. Once we have that, a member of the clergy will contact you to set up a meeting to talk with you about what is the right way forward for your family, and to look at dates with you.
We look forward to meeting you.