"I didn’t even know something like that existed"
Not some special artefact, not some priceless jewel, but the response of families emerging from a Church of England service - not a usual reaction!
They had come for a "Christening", and been puzzled. It was a wonderful celebration for family and friends, and the parents had been overjoyed as they answered the questions the vicar put to them. "Do you receive this child as a gift from God?" and "Do you wish to give thanks to God and seek his blessing?" And it had seemed so special when after some lovely prayers, some special friends had said they would do all that they can to help and support in bringing up Michael.
So what was all this? Was it Baptism? No, it was what the Church of England calls the "Service of Thanksgiving for the gift of a child" - a well kept secret we now make public!
The birth of a child usually brings enormous feelings of wonder about Creation. Many people for whom church attendance is rare, still want to express their thanks to God even though they are unhappy about being asked to make very solemn commitments like "I turn to Christ, I repent of my sins" - and making similar promises on behalf of the infant. But now the Church offers the Thanksgiving Service which enables parents to thank God, but to leave the way open for the Michael to make up his own mind about the Christian faith when he understood the issues.
This is not a second class baptism, but a first class opportunity to seek God’s help in the difficult privilege of bringing up a child. And it’s not just a service for those who don’t often come to church. At a recent local baptism service several teenage children thanked their parents (who were committed Christians) for simply having this Thanksgiving Service so they could be baptised having made up their own minds to follow Jesus. Neither service affects the child’s spiritual status - God loves all children the same.
We want to make sure every new parent understands the options and we have prepared a special leaflet which will help you decide what service is right for you. This will be given to you before your preparation meetings.
You might feel as one parishioner did "That’s just what I want for my child".