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Baby Blessing
A service for atheistic and agnostic parents?

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 "guide".

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.

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