To christen or not to christen?
You may not have realised it, but across the UK fewer and fewer children are being christened. The rate has fallen by nearly 80% since 1900 and in cities such as London fewer than 1 in 10 children are christened. This is despite almost 60% of all Brits identifying as Christian.
It’s a topic that Kate and I have been discussing since The Boy and The Girl were first born. What are the reasons for and against christening your child? What did we decide to do? It might surprise you!
Em takes the argument for:
You may think that as a committed Christian (albeit one that goes to church less than she probably should) that it was a simple decision to christen The Boy. Actually it was not.
I would always describe myself as in an inter-faith marriage, not because The Boy’s Dad has another religion, but because he is such a strong atheist. Not only does he not believe in the Holy Trinity, he doesn’t believe in any God at all, and actively rejects organized religion.
So why did we christen The Boy before he even turned three months?
Firstly, and most importantly, it was a non-negotiable for me. Christening The Boy was important because I want The Boy to grow up in the Christian church, in the Christian community, and I wanted to publicly demonstrate support for his spiritual growth as a Christian. Whilst I am by no means one to evangelise, my faith is important to me – in fact the first thing I said when The Boy’s Dad proposed is that I would only accept if we got married in a church.
Whilst The Boy’s Dad was not too pleased about having him christened, and committing to raising him as a Christian, until such a time that he can make his own decision, he ultimately agreed because it’s so important to me. My argument was – if you don’t believe in it at all, what is the harm?
Whilst of course being a Christian was the most important reason to have The Boy christened there were other benefits. It was great fun to hold a big party (we had almost 70 people attend) and to thank all of our friends and family for their support through the first three months’ of The Boy’s life. I also would be lying if The Boy’s Dad hadn’t be slightly persuaded by the good Church of England school over in Ealing – faith schools are becoming increasingly popular and can offer a fantastic education – another benefit.
The Boy’s Christening was an amazing milestone for him and for us as parents. We are so grateful to all of his Godparents, all of our friends, and for our church community for the way that they have supported him and continue to support him
Kate takes the argument against:
OK, so for me, the argument for not christening your child could be based around the following things (and indeed mine did for quite awhile):
1. You aren’t ‘Church of England’ religious
I (and my husband) appreciate the global historical significance of the Church of England, but we don’t necessarily practice religion, for us it’s more about spirituality rather than organised religion.
2. You want to wait until your child is old enough to decide for themselves
This is a point I felt strongly about for a long time – and it’s incredibly valid, considering you have no idea what you child will grow up to think / be / do. They might be interested in Buddhism, Evangelicalism or nothing at all. Deciding to get them christened at an early age could put pressure on your child to be religious.
3. You have a different religion where you might have a baby dedication (wasn’t applicable to us, but still a reason!)
In the states, I grew up in the evangelical church where you’d have a baby dedication rather than a christening. A baby dedication is just that – a dedication to God that the baby will be raised in a godly way, it doesn’t have any significance in terms of school admissions, like a christening does. So, your religion might have a different route to faith than the tradition Church of England way.
4. You don’t have a local church you’ve been attending consistently
Often churches require you to be a regular attendee, committed member of the church before agreeing to conduct a ceremony. If you aren’t already in the habit of giving up your Sunday mornings, this can seem like a lot to ask!
5. You aren’t religious. At all.
Agnostic. Aesthetics. Whatever. You don’t believe there is a God, so what’s the point? Something like a naming ceremony, where you can still have a gathering of your friends and family as well as a special milestone as a parent might be something that is better suited.
Those were all of my reasons to not get The Girl christened. And then, of course, we changed our mind and got her christened anyways! For us, we realised that although neither my husband nor I are religious, it was something we recognised might be something of value to The Girl in that it gives her roots to our local area, it allows her access to a community she might not have access to previously and (for us, to be honest, most importantly) was an opportunity for her to have formal godparents to be part of her life.
Common theme we are learning in our parental-journey: it’s OK to change your mind!