What Every Parent Should Know About Christenings
If you would like to bring your child up as a Christian, then a Christening is the first step.
However, a Christening, whilst being a religious occasion, doesn’t have to be the only motivation. It can also a way of bringing the whole family together to celebrate this special day and if we are going to be mercenary about this, by attending the local church, it could be good for getting your child in to the excellent local church school at a later date.
Be prepared though. Some clergy will be laid back about your attendance to the Sunday service where others will expect you and your child to attend on a regular basis. How regular will also be up to the vicar, it might be as little as twice a year or it could be once a week for a few months.
When we decided to have our children christened, our local vicar did expect us to attend on a regular basis. He also insisted that we attend regularly before he married us too.
What is the alternative?
There is a growing number of parents and clergy who have questioned how a baby can possibly understand the concept of Jesus and repenting any sins. So as an alternative you could just have your baby blessed and then have a christening when they are older and able to understand what Christianity is all about.
What can you expect at a Christening?
If you have never been to a christening, you might be wondering what to expect at this special occasion.
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 be welcomed into the community of the local church. However, you don’t have to have been christened yourself.
So how do you go about organising a christening and what can you expect to happen?
Booking your day
The first thing you need to do is contact your local church and talk to your local vicar. If you are not a church goer, then this can seem a daunting task. However, you will probably be pleasantly surprised at how friendly and welcoming the local vicar can be. I have known some great vicars with a brilliant sense of humour. Our lovely vicar even came with us to the pub after the service. He definitely wasn’t the type of person to make you think that you were a miserable sinner.
You will need to discuss with the vicar if your christening is going to be a special service that needs to be arranged or whether it will be part of the Sunday service. You will probably be asked a series of questions ranging from who the Godparents are going to be to details about your faith.
As always with important events, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to arrange a date. You might be able to book a date quickly but you will probably want to give your family plenty of time so that they can arrange to attend.
Choosing your Godparents
Choosing Godparents for your child is a big decision and you want to make sure you take your time. Traditionally they were chosen for their Christian beliefs, but nowadays they are chosen because they are a close friend, relative or friend of the family.
When choosing Godparents, you want them to be the type of people who will stay in touch with your family for many years to come and offer your child support if they need it. They should be people you know and trust.
Traditionally you have three Godparents. They can be two of the same sex and one of the other but ultimately you can choose, you can have more than three if you wish, it is up to you. However, according to the Church of England web site, the Godparents will have to have been baptised, but you can talk to your vicar about this and who you would like.
Christening gowns can be worn by both girls and boys and tend to be long white or cream. If you have a family gown that has been passed down the generations, then that is great otherwise you will have to buy one.
There are plenty of shops that sell vintage or antique clothing that you could consider or many of the large department stores will sell appropriate clothes for Christenings too. If you want to buy on line, then type in to Google “Christening UK”, “Christening Clothes” or “Christening Gowns for Boys”, “Christening Gowns for Girls” and see what is available.
If your Christening is part of the service, make sure everyone turns up 10 minutes before it is due to begin. Like a lot of weddings, your service may not be the only one for that day so the vicar will need to keep everything running to schedule.
The parents and Godparents will be expected to stand around the font. The vicar will have given you a service sheet prior to the service or if not will hand you one at the event.
Water will be blessed and used to pour on the baby’s head. The baby will be signed with the cross, a special oil may be used for this, and a candle 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.
After the Service
After the service you may want to have a reception. This could be at home where you could prepare sandwiches and cakes or if you fancy splashing out then you could consider caterers or going to a venue. Remember though what ever you decide, make sure you invite the vicar too as a thank you for their services.
Baby Gift Ideas
You might want to get something special for the baby. If you are stuck for ideas we have some ideas for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some Frequently asked questions about Christenings that you may still have:
How many Christenings are held per month?
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.
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 ‘baptised’ during a ‘christening’ service just as couples are ‘married’ during a wedding service.
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
Is my baby named at the christening?
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.
Is there anyone who is not allowed to have a christening service?
The Church of England welcomes all babies, children and families.
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.
How much does a christening service cost?
The church is free for a christening service, although a contribution at the end of the service will be heartily accepted. You will have to pay for the family party, for gifts, for christening gowns though.
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.
When can I have a christening?
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 should be able to make the promises for themselves.
What times can I have my Christening?
The service is usually held as part of a main Sunday service in the local church, but there are also opportunities to have a service at a different time, again usually on a Sunday. Talk to the vicar, and ask their advice.