Thanking God for your baby
We are so glad you have decided to ask for Godís
blessing on your child. We are very pleased to help, and this booklet
explains what we can offer you.
A child is a wonderful gift from God and itís right
that we want to celebrate such a fantastic present.
The Church of England offers two approaches - thanksgiving
Both are ways of celebrating the life of your
child which involve making promises to God with the support of close
Both offer the opportunity for a family
celebration, and take place during a Church service so all the church
members can welcome and commit themselves to pray for you in the nurture
of your child. The main difference is in the extent and depth of
Christian commitment that each form of service expresses.
(1) What is a Thanksgiving?
"Thanksgiving for the gift
of a child"
is a celebration to mark the birth and
naming of your child. We give thanks for your childís new life, and
commit both you and the child to God, asking for his help and blessing
in the years to come.
It is the sort of service that almost anyone who
believes in God can stand up and take part in, even if they are not sure
what else they believe. Itís a way in which parents can express their
gratitude for the birth of the child, and receive Godís blessing on
them and the child. The church members welcome your family and pray for
(2) What is a Baptism?
For parents who bring children to be baptized,
the service involves making promises before God and the congregation to
be a wholehearted disciple of Jesus Christ Ė and to show evidence of
that commitment by being part of the church community. This is a tough
commitment to make in the 21st century, and is something to
be thought through seriously.
A baptism is also a celebration, often with lots of
friends and relatives, but rather more is involved. You, and
"Godparents" make very solemn promises before God which are
effectively a public declaration of basic Christian belief involving:
(i)Ö deciding to turn away from the
natural way of doing things, and letting God rule every area of our
lives (what the Bible calls "repentance") and
(ii)Ö deciding to follow Jesus Christ
and accept Godís forgiveness made possible by his death on the cross
(this is what the Bible calls choosing to "believe").
The promises and statements you and Godparents make
are enclosed with this leaflet Ė they cannot be made lightly!
Similarly, we pray and trust that a baptized child
will grow up to understand and appropriate for themselves the promises
made in baptism. For this reason, it is important to understand that
baptism is the beginning of a spiritual journey within the family of the
church Ė not a one-off event which means that a child is
Because baptism is so tied in with being part of the
church family, we always have a baptism in the main morning service
preferably at one of our more informal "Worship for All"
services, so that everyone can join in welcoming your child.
(3) How do I know whether baptism
is right for me?
If you want to thank God for the gift of your child, but
do not want to make the solemn promises before God and other people that
baptism involves, then the thanksgiving
or dedication service is for you. Thanksgiving
is also for those who feel they want to acknowledge God and seek
his help in the childís upbringing. Of course, your child can always
be baptized later on as well, should you, or the child (when older and
able understand the promises made) want this. That is why a lot of
committed Christians, too, opt for this service.
Baptism is for the children of parents who
are, or want to be practicing Christians. The Christian faith is a
personal relationship with God through Christ. This relationship is open
to us not on the basis of how good we are, but as a gift. (Much though
this surprises many, the Christian faith is not about "being good
enough to go to heaven"Ö). A simple explanation of what this
means is provided in a small booklet called "Why Jesus?"
which you should receive with this pamphlet.
(4) Is the Thanksgiving
a "second class" baptism?
Definitely not! The two services are different ways
of responding to Godís gift of a child and both are treated by the
Church as great occasions. Thanksgivings
are a first class alternative and joyfully used by both committed
Christians and those who are not. Either way the childís spiritual
status is the same
(5) Do I have to come to church?
If you decide to have a
thanksgiving service, this does not imply any ongoing
commitment to come to church. We would love to see you --- and you might
be surprised by what you find! --- but the thanksgiving does not involve
any promises to that effect. The Church of England baptism
service, by contrast, does include the clear statement by parents and
godparents that they will help their children "take their place
within the life and worship of the church".
We hope this information is helpful, but please donít
worry if you still have questions! The church is not for perfect people
but for ordinary men and women like us who are honest enough to
recognise our need of God. We look forward to talking about some of
these things Ė or any other questions you have - in the near future.