Each week there are more than 2,200 Church of England christenings across the country, attended by an estimated quarter of a million people.
Research for the Archbishops’ Council has shown what makes parents decide to have a christening. 89% said that it was an essential foundation for life, giving their child a good start in life and seeking God’s blessing. Being surrounded by family and friends is also really important – and godparents are the some of most important people involved, with 91% of families saying they are influence on the decision to have their child christened.
Respondents to the survey talked about how it was important to have godparents to lead their children down the right path in life. One said: “A godparent is someone who is actively involved in a child’s life and is there for them. To us choosing a godparent was someone who would be there for our children, who are responsible, sensible and supportive individuals who would want the best for them.”
Canon Dr Sandra Millar, who heads up the work said: “Having a baby baptised at a christening is the start of an amazing journey of faith. Helping children to grow up well is a big task, and knowing that they are surrounded by family, friends, godparents and the local church family to support and pray for them is something many families find special and helpful. Our research showed parents have serious spiritual reasons for wanting a child baptised, and whilst they may not always use church language to express that, the longing for support, blessing and a foundation of faith provide a great place to start a life-long journey of discovery.”
Revd Kate Bottley who is part of the baptisms project for the Church of England said: “I talk to mums and dads about why they’re bringing babies to be baptised and they’re deeply serious about giving their children the best start in life. They’re looking for God’s blessing, they’re looking for protection and they’re looking for the best start in the Christian faith.”
The survey was carried out for the Church of England with 1000 people who were not regular churchgoers and had a child aged two or younger baptised in the Church of England.
Figures correct July 2015
For more information on baptism in the Church of England: https://churchofenglandchristenings.org
Here are our top ten most frequently asked questions about getting your baby or child christened.
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'. Babies are Baptized during a christening service just as couples are 'married' during a 'wedding' service.
2. Can anyone have a Christening service?
Yes, so long as they have not been Baptized already. The Church of England welcomes all babies, children and families for Christenings - 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. Just ask your local vicar if this is something you are considering for your baby.
3. What about godparents?
Godparents are some of the most important people at the Christening. Godparents are not the people who will care for your child should anything happen to you. Arrangements for this would normally be made by a Will. 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 at least three godparents, two of the same sex and at least one of the opposite sex. Parents may be godparents for their own children, providing they have at least one other godparent. Godparents must be baptized themselves and old enough to make some serious promises on behalf of the child.
4. How much does a Christening service cost?
The good news is that a Christening service is free. There may be costs for your family party afterwards, for gifts, or for christening robes, but the church service is free. [Occasionally parents need a certified copy of the entry in the register. In 2014 this will cost £12]
5. Where can we hold the Christening?
You can have your baby Christened at your local parish church and it is usually held as part of the main Sunday service. 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.
6. Can we arrange a Christening at a separate time to the Sunday service?
There may be opportunities to have a service at a different time, again usually on a Sunday, but talk to the vicar and ask their advice about what is possible at your church.
7. How do I arrange a Christening?
Simply contact the vicar of the church where you want to have the Christening and ask for advice.
You can find your local Church of England parish using our website: www.achurchnearyou.com.
8. How old should my child be?
You can have your baby or child Christened at any age. There is no upper age limit, but after about the age of seven your child may be able to make the promises for themselves. Talk to your vicar about baptizing an older child and how this might differ from a baby's Christening service.
9. What happens in the service?
At your baby's Christening, water will be blessed and poured on the baby's head - this is the baptism of your baby (the word 'baptism' means 'to be immersed in water'). The baby will be signed with the cross and a special oil may be used for this. A candle or other gift from the church may be given. Godparents and parents will make promises on behalf of the baby, and prayers will be offered for the baby and the family. There may also be readings and hymns, which you may be able to choose - ask your vicar if you have any special requests.
10. What exactly is Baptism?
Baptism marks the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our lives. This first step is a 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.
Stir up in us the gifts of your Spirit for the service of your gospel, that we – so blessed by your grace – may discern your call in our lives and respond courageously and obediently, bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit in ministries of rich variety. Take us and use us, to love and serve others in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Note: This Prayer may be used within the Intercessions or as a Post-Communion Prayer or at any other suitable point in the service. The Bishops request that it be included in all Confirmation Services through the year as we, as a diocese, reflect on our calling as individual disciples and as the Body of Christ sharing in the mission and ministry of God.