WHAT ARE CHRISTENINGS ALL ABOUT?
Baptism or christening is a Christian ritual that is traced back to Jesus himself being baptised in the river Jordan; in which we thank God for his gift of life and welcome your child into the family of the church and the Christian faith. We make promises to love, support and guide your child in their journey through life.
Alternatively you may wish to have a service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. In this service, you thank God for the gift of your child and the child is blessed. You do not make the same promises as in the Christening/Baptism service but you may also have a Christening/Baptism service for your child at a later date.
The Church of England carries out more than 10,000 christenings per month each year for babies and infants. This figure is made up of approximately 7,000 christenings per month for babies under one year old, and 3000 christenings per month for children aged 1 – 12 years. Everyone is welcome to have a christening in their parish church.
Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions about getting your baby or child christened/baptism.
1. What is the difference between a baptism and a christening? There is no difference between a christening service and a baptism service. Some churches will use the word ‘baptism’ and some the word ‘christening’. Christening is a traditional English word which means to become a member of the Christian church. Baptism means to be immersed in water. During a christening service a baby or child will be baptised with water and welcomed into the community of the local church.
2. What is baptism? “Baptism marks the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our lives, the first step in response to God’s love.” It is also a celebration, a time to come together with family and friends; remembering that your child is loved by God, is part of a wider community and has a place with God’s people.
3. What happens in the service? Christenings are services full of symbols for new life. At your baby’s christening water will be blessed and used to pour on the baby’s head. The baby will be signed with the cross, special oil may be used for this, and a candle given. Godparents and parents will make promises on behalf of the baby, and prayers will be offered for the baby and the family. There will also be readings and hymns, which you may be able to choose.
4. Does a christening give my baby a name? No. Your baby’s name is given when you register the birth. During the baptism, the baby’s name will be used often, and when the water is poured over the child’s head, the vicar will always use the name.
5. Who is allowed to have a christening service? The Church of England welcomes all babies, children and families – whatever shape that family takes. You do not have to be married to ask for a christening for your child. You do not have to be an active churchgoer – as parents, you do not even have to have been christened yourselves. Everyone is welcome at their local church.
If you wish to find out more about the Christian faith and what joining the church involves before making a decision, and the vicar can give you guidance.
6. How much does a christening service cost? The good news is that a christening service is free apart from a small charge of £14.00 for the certificates. There may be costs for a family party, for gifts, for christening robes – but the church is free.
7. Where can I hold the christening? You can have your baby christened at your local parish church. If you want to have the christening at a different church, for example, where you grew up or where you were married, you will need to talk to the vicar at that church.
8. When can I have a christening? You can have your baby or child christened at any age. What matters is that those involved are committed to bringing up the child as a Christian.
After about the age of seven your child should be able to make the promises for themselves. Teenagers and adults may also be baptized, this is celebrated with confirmation by the Bishop. You can only be baptised once, but there are ways of renewing your Christian commitment publicly as an adult and the vicar will be able to advise you.
The service is usually held after the main Sunday service which is at 10.15am and you will be invited back to that service the following week or by other arrangement as it is important that the church congregation are there to support you and welcome your child. However, if personal services make this difficult, please talk to the minister.
9. What about godparents? The involvement of godparents can be one of the most joyful parts of the christening.
Godparents are not necessarily the people who will care for your child should anything happen to you. Rather they should be people who will be there for your child and help them think about the bigger questions in life – questions of love, hope and faith.
Every child should have no fewer than three godparents, at least two of the same sex as the child. Parents may be godparents for their own children, providing they have at least one other godparent.
Godparents must be baptised themselves and old enough to make some serious promises on behalf of the child.
10. What happens after the christening?
Bringing a child up as a Christian takes commitment. Although we understand that in today’s society it is not always possible to attend church regularly, it is important to give the time needed for your child (or children) to be provided with the foundations of the Christian Faith. At St Peter’s we have a small Sunday school and hold an All Age Service once a month, attending these as often as you can is an excellent starting point.
11. How do I arrange a christening?