At St Mary’s Church we would love to ask God’s blessing on your child and to receive them into the family of the Church.
We want to assure you of our welcome, and that we will do everything possible to make this happen and to be part of a joyful day of celebrating the new life God has entrusted you with.
You can have your child baptised (or christened, as some people call it) at St Mary’s if you:
- live within the parish of Portchester. Check with the church office if in doubt. The parish boundary to the west is Ashtead Close and to the east, Portsdown Road;
- are on the Electoral Roll of St Mary’s Church. That is, you are already part of our congregation;
- live outside the parish, but have a connection with St Mary’s, and there is the realistic possibility of an ongoing pastoral relationship with us.
- live outside the parish, but intend to be part of your local parish church. (We would as a courtesy inform the vicar of your parish, so that they can offer you ongoing support and fellowship).
Baptism is a sacrament of the Church, and one in which you promise before God that you believe certain things and will bring your child up accordingly:
- that you will encourage, by your example, your child to be part of a worshipping Christian community;
- that you believe in the existence of God and the basic truths of Christianity;
- that you believe that through Jesus Christ, a new start is possible, and that through his love we can turn from all that is wrong, and live for all that is good.
It is therefore important that you know what you are ‘signing up to’ before you make a definite commitment and arrangements.
Firstly, we would like to invite you to attend an evening called ‘Exploring Baptism’. At this informal gathering, we will explain what Baptism means; take you through the service, and explain the role of Godparents. You will be given a folder with more information.
Secondly, Because Baptism is about belonging to and being welcomed into the family of the Church, we will invite you to attend a few services at St Mary’s to see if this is the sort of church family you could be part of and into which our child could be welcomed. We would ask that you do not book a venue for a reception or choose Godparents until we have had the chance to meet and explain what is involved.
Thirdly, if you decide you would like to belong to this part of God’s family, we will hold a course to help you to understand the meaning of baptism.
Baptisms are normally held on Sundays at 1.30pm and last about half an hour. There are normally two children baptised at each service. We will also invite you to our all-age service on the fourth Sunday of the month, when your child will be welcomed into the church family and given a baptism certificate and candle.
If a baptism is not for you, what about a
Service of Thanksgiving
Some parents may wish to mark the arrival of their child into the world, and to ask God’s blessing in a spiritual context, but feel that a traditional service of Baptism is not something they can at this stage, fully go along with; in which case, perhaps a ‘Service of Thanksgiving’ may be a better option, for the time being anyway.
Baptism (or Christening) is not simply a ‘naming ceremony’ with a bit of water splashed on the baby’s head! It is a deeply symbolic ceremony which assumes the parents have a real commitment to the Christian faith. Furthermore, it is an initiation into the Christian Church, which means a commitment to the local church family. The parents promise to be part of the worshipping community.
However, we realise that some honest parents could not say ‘yes’ to all of that, just for the sake of having a party and something ‘done’ to their child. But rather than walk away, why not think about a Service of Thanksgiving instead?
‘Thank you, God!’
The birth of a child is the participation in an everyday miracle, how two of you have produced such an intricate being! It is an event which can open parents up to a sense of awe and mystery, and a gift they would like to thank God for.
It is also an opportunity to ask God’s blessing on the child and to ‘name’ the child in a public ceremony to which friends and family are invited. As this new born baby is given to us, we are aware of how vulnerable that child is, and we realise we need all the help we can get for that child to grow physically, mentally and spiritually.
In what ways is a Thanksgiving/Blessing similar to a Baptism?
- It can take place in the church and is conducted by a minister.
- The parents are asked two simple questions:
Do you receive this child as a gift from God? (We do)
Do you wish to give thanks to God and seek his blessing? (We do)
- Supporting friends may be part of the ceremony and take a role similar to that of godparents.
- Your child may wear a christening robe
- Candles are lit
- The minister blesses the child.
In what ways is it different to a Baptism?
- There is no water used
- There is no symbolic oil used
- There is no obligation to state what you believe or don’t believe.
- There is no obligation to attend the Church afterwards or to bring the child up in any faith.
What form does the ceremony take?
In many ways it looks like a Baptism
- The Minister welcomes everyone, reads some pieces from the Bible and other literature about children.
- The parents and ‘supporting friends’ come to the front with their child and the two questions are put to them: Do you receive this child as a gift from God? and ‘Do you give thanks to God and seek his blessing?
- Then the minister takes the child in his arms or (if older) lays his hands on him/her and asks a Blessing.
- The parents and supporting friends light a candle; and a bible is given as a gift from the church.
Can we have an input into the words used?
Yes. Unlike a Baptism, it is not so ‘wordy’ and is more flexible. You are of course welcome to choose readings and words to say, or have a particular theme.
Does it have to take place in the church?
No. The minister would be happy to come to your house, garden or another hall where you might be having the party/reception.
How much does it cost?
There is no charge for this. If held in the church, there will be a retiring collection if anyone wants to put something in. If held in another venue, you might like to give a donation to the church, but no amount is specified.
This service is not ‘second best’. It can often be the best – certainly the more honest! Many committed Christians who do not believe in infant baptism, also find that this service is preferable for their child.
There is no fee or cost for any of these services, but we have a retiring offering for those who would like to give something.