Daily Telegraph 14 July 1999
Church to offer atheists a 'baby blessing' service
By Victoria Combe, Religion Correspondent
Churches will offer "baby
blessing" ceremonies to atheist and agnostic parents for the
first time, the General Synod decided yesterday.
A service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of
a Child is intended to avoid the hypocrisy of non-believers having
their babies baptised in church with no intention of returning. The
baptism rite demands that parents renounce the Devil, profess their
faith and promise to bring the child up in the Christian faith.
The blessing, which will be included in
the new liturgy, Common Worship, to be introduced next year, is
intended to draw into the Church those interested in Christianity
but not ready to make a commitment. There is no use of water or
candles. The minister holds the child, declares his or her name and
presents the parents with a copy of the Gospel as their
The prayer for the baby asks that in
"due time" he or she will "come through faith and
baptism to the fullness of God's grace". It can be adapted for
an adopted baby with a prayer for the "birth parents" and
for a disabled child with a prayer asking for "wisdom and
understanding, courage and patience" for the family.
For the first time there is a prayer for
the father, asking for him to be blessed with "tenderness and
patience" and support in "protecting those who look to
him". A prayer to be used after a difficult birth thanks God
for turning "pain into joy".
Margaret Baxter, a lay member of Blackburn
diocese, presented the new liturgy to the Synod, saying that it had
already been tried out successfully. It was to be used next month in
the case of a Buddhist mother and a Christian father.
The Synod voted in favour of the draft
service, which will be further revised before final approval in
November. It postponed a debate on whether to retain the traditional
version of the Lord's Prayer, saying that it had run out of time.