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Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving

The order of service below comes from The Church of the Holy Family, Blackbird Leys, Oxford, which is a Local Ecumenical Partnership of four denominations: Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed.  The Church covers a UPA estate of population 14,000, and has an Anglican priest (James Ramsay) and a Free Church Minister (vacant, but formerly Brenda Wilson, who is now at Rickmansworth Baptist Church).  On and around the estate are several other denominations and church groups, and part of the spirit of the Project is a real desire to reckon with the diversity of Christian conviction at large.  

            James tells me that the service is used for 20-25 families (about 30 children) per annum, and is offered regularly once a month on a Sunday.  The church has resolved that all families should have this service before considering any further service, and there is a leaflet which explains that the Thanksgiving and Blessing is a first step to helping the family decide if they would like to pursue any closer links with the church.  

            The service has succeeded in that the church wanted to keep an “open policy” whereby something was always offered to families and they were never turned away.  It has also made a useful bridge in helping the families settle a little into church, so that when they come to baptism or dedication they aren’t coming completely out of the cold into the service.  

            However, contrary to what the church envisaged when the service was first introduced, most families do go on to request infant baptism (the clear majority) or dedication (a few - a URC-based liturgy is used for this).  The church also intended to do much more individual visiting and exploration with families, but has found the numbers unmanageable.  

            And what about the ecumenical dimension?  “Some Baptists accept the pastoral importance of infant baptism as part of C of E tradition, but would not regard it as baptism in the full sense,“ says James.  “Part of the costly task of ecumenism is accepting and working with the fact that we really do see things differently.”  

            Having used the service for a few years, James would like to explore some changes to it and its explanatory leaflet - good practice is worth sharing and improving.  

PROMISES:

            Creator God, source of all life, we give you thanks for the good things we enjoy; especially we thank you for the precious gift of our child/children.  Amen.

            We thank you that, in making us man and woman, you give us a share in the mystery of the creation of life.  Amen.

            We thank you for the skills and care of all who helped in the safe delivery of these children.  Amen.

            We thank you for all who have supported and cared for them in this first stage of their journey of life.  Amen.

            Forgive us that sometimes we take the good things for granted, we misuse your gifts, and we hurt others.  God forgive us.

            We bring you all our fears and hopes for the future,

                        praying for strength to overcome fear,

                        and for trust in your love that shall never fail us. 

            This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

READING and TALK.  

PROMISES:

Minister:                     God has entrusted you with the privilege and responsibility of bringing up these children, to do your best for them, to provide not only for their physical needs, but also for their emotional and spiritual development.  Will you be loving, responsible parents?

Parents:                      We will.

Minister:                     Will you raise your children in the spirit of Goodness and Truth?

Parents:                      We will.

Minister:         (to family & friends)   Will you continue to give care and support to these children and those who care for them day by day?

Family etc:                 We will.

  BLESSING:

[Name], the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.  Amen.

            May the love of the Lord Jesus draw you to himself;

may the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen you in his service;

may the joy of the Lord Jesus fill your heart and mind and spirit;

and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you always.  Amen.  

PRAYERS:  

Parents:                      Almighty God, we pray for a calm strength and patience wisdom, to bring up our children to love what is just, and true, and good, following the example and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

Family etc:                 All-loving God, in this troubled world, give us wisdom and understanding, to help these families and their children grow up.  Surround them with the light of your truth and warmth of your love, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

All:                               Holy God, help us to remember that we are all your children, and you care for us equally.  So we pray, as Jesus taught us: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name; Your kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread; Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us; And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.  

HYMN and FINAL BLESSING

See Also Articles by Rev S Corbett and Kevin Roy   

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