*** DEBUG END ***

Invited to join the party

09 January 2015

Peter McGeary finds pastoral good sense in a baptism course

Getting ready for Baptism: A practical course preparing children for baptism (course book)
Richard Burge, Penny Fuller, and Mary Hawes
Barnabas for Children £8.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code CT251 )

My Baptism Journey (activity book)
Richard Burge, Penny Fuller, and Mary Hawes
Barnabas for Children £3.99
Church Times Bookshop £3.60 (Use code CT251 )

WHAT's the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? You have, at least, a chance of negotiating with a terrorist.

A tasteless and cruelly accurate joke (from a Roman Catholic liturgist I know). There is a kind of liturgical fundamentalism that can afflict Christians of all shades and opinions. It falls over itself to do what's "in the book", and never more so when it comes to rites of Christian initiation.

This is particularly ironic in the context of the Church of England, given the apparent latitude that now obtains in Common Worship. The baptism rite has not worn well, being seen by some right from the start as far too wordy and didactic, and too easily predicated on things that cannot be taken for granted any more. I well remember baptising a baby with a packed church of the unchurched (extended families can be very large in the East End), and being required to ask the parents and godparents if they subscribed to various strands of Pauline thought that I do not understand. All very correct, but not very pastoral.

That makes these books all the more welcome. They are an ecumenical enterprise, and assume that the candidate is either a baby or a young child; consequently, much of the material is to do with parents and godparents as well as candidates. The activity book is intended for children, and provides a clear and attractive introduction to the rite and its meaning. There is plenty of space for the candidates to write down questions or thoughts, which might be shared with others later.

The course book has many strengths. It does not assume that the person leading any preparation is a minister, or formally qualified. It makes no assumptions about a particular "policy" of baptism. And it does not spoon-feed the reader with "how to do it". Instead, the authors recognise that baptism can take place at any stage of life, and that it involves a variety of people, not just an individual and his or her immediate family.

The main body of the book uses the image of baptism as a party: stage one is about being invited to the party; stage two is about enjoying it; stage three carries on the celebrations. This allows the authors to lay out a series of "courses" for the candidates and others, which, taken together, give a rounded picture of what baptism is about. There are practical suggestions about how long a session might take and what resources might be needed, but these are always to be qualified by context: one can give to people only what they are disposed to receive. There is no one "right" method.

Pastoral good sense comes at the reader again and again from these books. Congratulations again to the BRF for producing material in an attractive and durable layout.

The Revd Peter McGeary is the Vicar of St Mary's, Cable Street, in east London, and a Priest Vicar of Westminster Abbey.


Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)