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Church of England Christenings

Baptism, or 'Christening' as it is often called, is the way Christians welcome new members into their Church. Obviously, babies are unable to make a personal commitment to Christianity, so the Christian parents or parent, helped by 'Sponsors', or 'God-Parents', make the promises on their behalf. The parents and god-parents promise to bring the baby up in a Christian home, to take part in Christian worship on a regular basis, and when the child is old enough, to bring him or her to the Bishop so that the child can 'confirm' for him or her self the promises of personal Christian commitment that were made on his or her behalf at baptism.

What happens at a Christening?
At a Christening the baby is taken to a font (a vessel which holds water), in the church building and sprinkled with water on the head three times in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (which represents the Trinity). The child's parents and god-parents also make promises to God that they will bring their child up in the Christian faith.

Who can be a godparent?
Who can, and can't be, a godparent, is written down in Church law. A godparent should ideally have been baptised and confirmed, but your vicar can use their discretion to allow a godparent to stand if he or she has not been confirmed, as long as they have been baptised.

"For every child to be baptised there shall be not fewer than three godparents, of whom at least two shall be of the same sex as the child and of whom at least one shall be of the opposite sex; save that, when three cannot conveniently be had, one godfather and god mother shall suffice. Parents may be godparents for their own children provided that the child have at least one other godparent.

The godparents shall be persons who will faithfully fulfil their responsibilities both by their care for the children committed to their charge and by the example of their own godly living."

Arranging a Christening
Baptisms should normally take place in the Parish where the parents live. Parents should make direct contact with the Church of England minister of that parish. The telephone number of the minister can be found in the phone book listed under CHURCHES and the name of the town or village. Alternatively telephone Church House on 01865 208225 for the name and telephone number of the minister.

The minister may wish the parents to undertake a period of instruction before baptism. Different parishes have different times for Baptism, and this is a matter for discussion between the minister and the family.

For more information, contact your parish vicar.

The christening itself takes place in the church, but afterwards guests are customarily invited to the parents home or a nearby hotel for a meal, which is often a buffet or summer tea kind of affair. As christenings have often been held on Sundays the revelry tends to be low key, but obviously a get together of family and friends on a Saturday should be given the latitude it deserves. A marquee is a great way to extend your home to include more guests and entertainment.

Who and how to invite, and to what
If there are Grandparents they will want to come, and its always a good idea to check whether key guests - such as the god parents - will be available for the big day before confirming any bookings or ordering the invitations. Children are almost always honoured guests at Christenings.

The baby is the star of the show at a Christening, with both sexes often wearing a family gown that is traditionally long, white or cream and intricately embroidered (not unlike a wedding dress!). The baby is also often wrapped in a white shawl. The parents, god parents and guests should take their cue from the occasion and venue - a more formal service and church will demand more formal wear, whereas more informal attire can be worn at a more relaxed church and service. Formalwear here usually means lounge suits.

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