Listening and christening

by
09 September 2016

Let’s not short-change those bringing infants, says Dana Delap

 

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We Welcome You: Baptism preparation with families
Jacqui Hyde
Church House Publishing £14.99
(978-0-7151-4722-1)
Church Times Bookshop £13.50

 

 

GOOD baptism preparation is a minefield, and I discovered from this book that my practice is out of date. We Welcome You is a baptism-preparation course based on research conducted by the Church of England into attitudes of parents and clergy towards baptism of children.

Surprisingly, most families interviewed had a good understanding of the practicalities of the service, but wanted more to help them on the journey of faith. Just as marriage preparation is for life beyond the wedding, so many were looking for preparation for baptism that pointed towards discipleship beyond a christening.

The research showed that clergy sometimes underestimate the level of commitment shown by families that ask for their child to be christened. Since only one in six babies are baptised, those families approaching the church for a christening are more seriously motivated that I have previously given them credit for. Many were seeking a place for God in the life of their family. In other words, we have moved beyond a general feeling that babies should be “done”, and into a new era of unarticulated intention, and unexplored spirituality.

We Welcome You offers a three-session course, complete with resources, timetable, and plenty of ideas for participation. The first session explores motivations for bringing a child for baptism, and the place of godparents as those who will build a relationship with the child, and begins to lead families into prayer and big questions about God. The book includes an additional theological introduction by the Bishop of Durham, which should give clergy and laity resources to answer any questions that might arise.

The second session includes a practical guide to the service, and the last session leads on into the changing needs of a family, as children begin to ask questions, and includes affirmation of the Church’s welcome, encouragement, and support. There are also instructions both for those who want to offer a single workshop to groups of parents, and material that could be adapted for individual families. The book is adaptable and pragmatic, and will be of help to smaller churches for whom modern and interactive resources have been scarce.

As someone who has been nervous about offering too much baptism preparation for fear of driving people away, I have gained confidence from this book to offer an occasional one-off workshop for groups of parents and godparents who have asked for a christening.

In future, I will be encouraging families to come to my house, where my baptism welcomers and I can model “messy hospitality”. I hope it will be a safe space to bring people searching for God — a space where they and their family can vocalise their longing to give thanks and journey onwards.

 

The Revd Dana Delap is Team Vicar of Blockley and Bourton on the Hill and Missioner in the Vale and Cotswold Edge Team Ministry.

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