From Jimmy Young, Radio 2
2nd April 2002, at around 1.40pm
(Jimmy Young is in bold and John Hartley in
We have edited out the "umms, ahhs, you know's, like I
and made the article slightly more legible - but no words have been
John Hartley, he's vicar of St Luke's in Eccleshill, Bradford, has
written to David and Victoria Beckham, and he's urged them not to
have Brooklyn baptized, because, he said, they might not be able to
keep the promises that they would have to make. The Rev'd Hartley is
hopefully on the line to me now, from our Bradford studio. Good
afternoon, John, if you're there.
yes, here I am.
David may have been misquoted for all we know, but nonetheless, do
you think his remarks suggest that he might not be aware of the
significance, and indeed the commitment, which go with the
christening and baptism in the Christian church?
Well, like you
say we don't know what he actually did say and the context he said
it in, but I thought it was a good article really. I saw it in the
newspaper a little while since and I thought: "That would make
a good parish magazine article." When I wrote it it came out in
the form of a letter, so I thought I'd better send it to David,
hadn't I? - so that's what I did.
heard back from him?
I'm afraid I
haven't yet, but keep me posted - mind, I did promise him
confidentiality if he wanted to write back confidentially.
Well now to
what extent, on a broader platform, has Christening become something
that parents, even those who are not very religious, think they
ought to do, rather like couples who are not particularly religious
think they ought to get married in church?
Well, I guess
there is a point in that. What I said in the letter actually was
that there are two sorts of christenings in the Church of England
today. There's one which is called the service of Thanksgiving and
Blessing, and that's actually what Jesus did with children - the
bible says he took the children in his arms and he laid his hands on
them and he blessed them, and the other one is the baptism, and
that's the one which everybody has heard of, and that's the one
which has got promises in it, and of course it's the promises which
are the difficulty. What I suggested to David was - go for the
Thanksgiving and Blessing, because it's a really nice service, it
makes a good opportunity for having a celebration, for having a
party, inviting lots of people to come and say thank you to God for
a lovely child (because Brooklyn is lovely, isn't he?), and asking
for God's help for him as he grows up, and that is really what the
article was all about.
confess, John, I'd never heard of the Thanksgiving Service as such -
not in this context. Is it a new thing?
It's not that
new - in fact Thomas Cranmer had one in the Book of Common Prayer a
long while ago. But it hasn't been very much majored on in the
Church until recent years, and I suppose it's coming back a bit
more, really, because we do find that lots of people do want to say
a genuine thank-you and and they do want to ask God's help, but this
business of tying yourself up to promise to bring a child to church
week by week, making statements of your own faith and also making
statements about what your child's faith is going to be in the
future - a lot of people find that difficult, and that's why this
service of Thanksgiving and Blessing has much more come into the
It sounds as
though it might be absolutely charming, but nonetheless it does
sound like much less of a firm commitment than baptism. It only
seems to say well thank you very much God for this child and we'll
do the best we can, you know?
Well, I think
the thing is, you see, we need to find a way of letting people say
what they can say and not put them in the position of saying what
they can't say. David's comment "I do want Brooklyn christened
but I don't know into what religion" - well I pray David would
come to the point where he does know what religion and that type of
thing, but if he's not there yet, it's not right simply to say what
you can't have, it's much better to say what you can have, and we
invite you to come and find out more.
Going back to
something I mentioned earlier on, many people seem to be using the
church as a sort of milestone in their lives or their children's
lives - get married, get baptized, get buried and so on but they
never actually seem to set foot in the church very much apart from
that. Do you resent that at all?
No I don't
really. Actually there are more people set foot in the church than
you might think, and the statistics say that more people go to
church than go to football matches, although I don't think the
footballers like to admit that very much. I've got no objection to
people coming to church to say thank you to God for something
wonderful - I think that's marvellous. What I do want to do is I
want to make sure that afterwards they can look the vicar in the eye
knowing they haven't promised something they can't deliver on,
knowing instead that they've been there ... it's a mark of their
integrity. In fact, I'm part of an organisation called Baptismal
Integrity, and it's all about trying to make sure that people
can say things that they mean in church services.
So as a
parish priest you don't feel you're being used by people who don't
take the trouble to come and see you every Sunday, but just use you
when it suits them?
I think there's
a lot of that goes on - I mean, Jimmy, don't you sometimes feel used
by people who want to get on the radio? (No!!) There's an
awful lot of that type of stuff, isn't there? No, I think it's fair
enough, I think people have got a right to say "Thank you,
God", and I think it's right that they should come to church to
Well I think
it sounds like an absolutely charming ceremony, and I hope that if
someone up there is listening today then you'll hear from David and
Victoria in very short order.
I hope so - you
never can tell.
Good to talk
to you today John ....
Telephone calls and emails which followed:
emailed us: "How dare that vicar presume that the Beckhams
won't keep the vows that they make - why on earth shouldn't they
keep each and every vow? What exactly is he implying, I'd like to
know? And I think it's a scandalous assumption to make. And by his
reckoning, it seems, no child ought to be baptized!"
website message board: "What's all this fuss about the
Brooklyn christening. David is the epitome of a normal Christian
peace-loving individual who is never more happy than when he is
nestled in the cosy confines of his family."
Steve Price: "We're
now, in case the priest hadn't noticed, in a multifaith society, and
I'd have thought the fact that the Beckhams have decided to have
Brooklyn christened at all ought to be enough for him, but it
appears not so."
Rev'd Gwyn Owen,
vicar of Stockwood in Bristol, emailed: "Brooklyn Beckham
may gladly come to my church. However, his parents will have to bear
in mind that baptism is a means of God's grace - it's not some sort
of membership card, you know."
"I feel Brooklyn shouldn't be christened, not because of who
he is or who his parents are, but because I don't agree with
christening. The bible, the foundation of the Christian Faith, at no
point makes a mention of infant baptism. What it actually makes
clear is: baptism is for those people who have first believed.
Baptism is therefore not a decision to be made by parents on behalf
of their children."
To see the original Parish
Newsletter Article click here
To see transcript of Radio Leeds
interview click here