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Thanksgiving for the gift of a child

This service was initiated by the Church of England in November 1999 in response to a demand for a religiously-oriented but non-committal ceremony. This service is not the same as Baptism (sometimes called Christening), which is the sacrament of initiation into membership of the Church, the Body of Christ. The service is provided for a number of different occasions, such as the private celebration of a birth or adoption, at home or in church with only family and close friends present; the public celebration of the birth or adoption of a number of children, perhaps in church on a Sunday afternoon or the public celebration of the birth or adoption of a number of children as part of a main Sunday act of worship.

It is designed for parents who see this as a preliminary to baptism, parents who do not wish their children to be baptized immediately, or others who do not want to baptise their child into the Church, but recognize that something has happened for which they wish to offer thanks to God. It is perfect for people who do not attend Church regularly themselves, but still believe in God.

A register is kept of children who have had a Thanksgiving service which is separate from the baptismal register, and the child receives a certificate of the ceremony. Although no godparents are involved, there is still a role for supporting adults, who may make a similar commitment to the child and the family, but they do not have to commit to teaching the child Christianity in the same way as godparents. During the ceremony itself, one of the supporting adults may present the child to the minister, and make a promise to care for the child.

The following is a brief outline of a suggested service:

Reading(s) and Sermon (this may be omitted)
Thanksgiving and Blessing
The minister says
Do you receive these children as a gift from God?
We do
Do you wish to give thanks to God and seek his blessing?
We do
The minister says
God our creator,
we thank you for the wonder of new life
and for the mystery of human love.
We thank you for all whose support and skill
surround and sustain the beginning of life.
We thank you that we are known to you by name
and loved by you from all eternity.
We thank you for Jesus Christ,
who has opened to us the way of love.
We praise you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
All: Blessed be God for ever.
The minister may say for each child
What name have you given this child?
A parent or supporting friend replies
His/her name is N.
The minister may take the child.
The minister says
As Jesus took children in his arms and blessed them,
so now we ask God's blessing on N.
Heavenly Father, we praise you for his/her birth;
surround him/her with your blessing
that he/she may know your love,
and know your goodness all his/her days.
be protected from evil.
When all the children have been prayed for
All: May they learn to love all that is true,
grow in wisdom and strength
and, in due time, come through faith and baptism
to the fullness of your grace;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
The minister prays for the parents
May God the Father of all bless these parents
and give them grace to love and care for their children.
May God give them wisdom, patience and faith,
help them to provide for the children's needs
and, by their example,
reveal the love and truth that are in Jesus Christ.
All: Amen.
Giving of the Gospel
A copy of a Gospel is presented, with these words
Receive this book.
It is the good news of God's love.
Take it as your guide.
The minister may address the supporting friends and say
Will you do all that you can to help and support N and N in the bringing up of N?
With the help of God, we will.
The minister may address the wider family and friends and say
Will you do all that you can to help and support this family?
With the help of God, we will.

For more information, contact your parish vicar.

The service 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. 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 supporting adults - will be available for the big day before confirming any bookings or ordering the invitations. Children are almost always honoured guests at ceremonies involving babies.

There is no reason why a baby should not wear a traditional Christening gown for this ceremony, although equally they could also just wear their best outfit. 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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