A child is a wonderful gift from God and it’s right to celebrate such a fantastic present. We are so glad you have decided to ask us to be involved in this important occasion. We are very pleased to help. This page explains some of the ways we may be able to help you.
At St Mary’s, as part of the Church of England, we offer two different types of service: a service of Thanksgiving for the birth of a child or a service of Baptism, marking the start of a journey of faith.
Both are ways of celebrating the life of your child and involve making promises to God with the support of close friends. Both offer the opportunity for a family celebration, and take place during a Church service, so that all the church members can welcome and commit themselves to pray for you in the nurturing of your child. The main difference is in the extent and depth of Christian commitment that each form of service expresses.
What is a Thanksgiving?
“Thanksgiving for the gift of a child” is a celebration to mark the birth and naming of your child. We give thanks for your child’s new life, and commit both you and the child to God, asking for His help and blessing in the years to come.
It is the sort of service that almost anyone who believes in God can stand up and take part in, even if they are not sure what else they believe. It’s a way in which parents can express their gratitude for the birth of the child, and receive God’s blessing on them and the child. The church members welcome your family and pray for you.
What is a Baptism?
By bringing a child for baptism, you as parents are making a decision to start your child on the journey of faith and are asking for the Church’s support.
For your child, baptism marks the start of a journey of faith, which involves turning away from all that is evil, turning towards Christ and becoming a member of the local and worldwide Christian family. Baptisms and Thanksgivings take place during the church’s morning service as part of welcoming your child into the church family.
A baptism is also a celebration, often with lots of friends and relatives, but rather more is involved than with a Thanksgiving. You and “Godparents” make very solemn promises before God. These are effectively a public declaration of basic Christian belief, involving:
- …deciding to turn away from the natural way of doing things, and letting God rule every area of our lives (what the Bible calls “repentance”) and
- …deciding to follow Jesus Christ and accept God’s forgiveness made possible by his death on the cross (this is what the Bible calls choosing to “believe”).
The promises and statements you and Godparents make are very significant – they cannot be made lightly!
Similarly, we pray and trust that a baptised child will grow up to understand and appropriate for themselves the promises made in baptism.
How do I know whether Baptism or Thanksgiving is right for me?
If you want to thank God for the gift of your child, but do not want to make the solemn promises before God and other people that baptism involves, then the thanksgiving or dedication service is for you. Thanksgiving is also for those who feel they want to acknowledge God and seek His help in the child’s upbringing. Of course, your child can always be baptized later on as well, should you, or the child (when older and able to understand the promises made) want this. That is why a lot of committed Christians, too, opt for this service.
Baptism is for the children of parents who are, or want to be practising Christians. The Christian faith is a personal relationship with God through Christ. This relationship is open to us not on the basis of how good we are, but as a gift. Much though this surprises many, the Christian faith is not about being “good enough” to go to heaven!
Here is an example of the liturgy (form of words) we use for each service:
Do I have to come to church?
If you decide to have a thanksgiving service, this does not imply any ongoing commitment to come to church. We would love to see you — and you might be surprised by what you find! — but the thanksgiving does not involve any promises to that effect. The Church of England baptism service, by contrast, does include the clear statement by parents and godparents that they will help their children “take their place within the life and worship of the church”.
We hope this information is helpful, but please don’t worry if you still have questions! The church is not for perfect people, but for ordinary men and women like us, who are honest enough to recognise our need of God. We look forward to talking about some of these things – or any other questions you have – in the near future.
If you’re not part of the church family already, the first thing to do is come along to church and meet us. We will then discuss with you how you would like to proceed. If you’re keen to go ahead, we will normally arrange the Christening in a service about 3 months later and arrange for you to either come along to one of our baptism courses or to join us at church.
For more information about baptism and thanksgiving services, contact the church office on 01455 558797 or firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a lot more information online at the Church of England website. Click on the banner for more information.