London, Mummy stuff

In the name of the Father, the Son and…

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Last Sunday was seeing little L and me attending the Christening of L’s babyfriend T. On our way to the reception, one of the guests asked me, if I was going to have little L baptised. Answering the question herself, she said ‘Well, I guess it’s better to have them baptised at an early age.’

Is it? I am not quite so sure.

It’s been ages since I last saw a church from the inside. And against my initial concerns, I was positively surprised. The mass was quite pleasant, with the vicar joking about the bishop flipping butter to the ceiling as a kid at dinner parties. And the songs weren’t too dark either. Nothing of the usual ‘or you will all end in purgatory’ I know from the catholic masses I went to when I was a kid. They even had cake, tea and biscuits awaiting the faithful community at the end of the service.

Little L was showing her most angelic behaviour. She even made an attempt to hum – apparently she has a thing for organ music. They burnt incense after incense, and just when I thought ‘I am getting sick any second now’, little L threw up. All the way down my new silk top. And just when I had cleaned up the mess, she decided to give it a shot and fill up her nappy. I just about managed to suppress a ‘holy crap’.

The only thing I found quite disturbing was the firm opinion of the attendants – most of them childless – to have young children baptised. They were talking about baptism as if it was a routine vaccination against all evil. If you have your children baptised, you have to promise to raise them in the name of the church you chose for them. I wouldn’t be able to give that promise. Neither are most of the people I know. Nevertheless, their babies are baptised as if there’s no tomorrow.

Isn’t that hypocritical? Aren’t we mocking those who really do belief? What do you think?

28 Comments

  1. I really struggled with deciding whether or not to have Big E baptised. We had the vicar round and pencilled in a date but then decided against it.

    It just didn’t feel right for us. I wouldn’t have wanted to make promises that I couldn’t keep. That’s just me though.

    In the end we decided on a lovely naming ceremony instead and the promises I mad ethat day are ones I will always keep.

    🙂

  2. Neither of my children were baptised because we’re not church goers and never have been and, yes, I felt I would be hypocritical if I had done.
    I did get shocked ‘you’re not having your babies baptised?’ comments but I didn’t feel that a party with lots of presents was reason enough to do it.
    And for the same reason we didn’t get married in a church either.

  3. Oooh, a tricky one. I’ve had three of mine baptised, number four keeps asking when she’s going to be done and now my husband is gone I can’t see her or number five getting done at all. My opinion has changed too but I still wouldn’t mind covering all angles. ‘Just in case’ May be hypocritical, not sure but then I don’t believe in having to go to church to practise Christianity.Hard one. Hope your blouse survived the sick incident.

  4. We haven’t had Cubling baptised. Hubby himself wasn’t baptised and his parents left it to him to make that decision when he’d be ready. He never did, we’re from two different religious backgrounds and neither of us feels that baptism is necessary. My family isn’t happy about this, but got over it. I did consider a humanist naming ceremony though (and never did a thing about it dumdidum).

    I don’t think it’s hypocritical to have a child baptised if the parents aren’t too religious, baptism like marriage to me is a kind of social routine. A welcoming into a community/society for baptism, a new stage of life with marriage. Many like to mark it, even if not religious, and that’s ok.

  5. Don’t know about the Catholic church, but the Church of England has a dedication service. A lot of people don’t practise religion, but believe in some kind of deity. When they have a baby, they want to celebrate, and give thanks, and promise to do their best in the responsibility of bringing the child up. A dedication service lets them do that, without them having to make declarations of belief. I think it is a really good idea.

  6. If this is a repeat comment, please ignore it (not sure if the first one went through).

    The C of E has a dedication service, as an alternative to baptism. It’s a way of giving thanks to God for the baby, and rejoicing in its birth, and promising to do your best in the responsibility of bringing it up, without you having to make a declaration of belief. A lot of parents who aren’t regular churchgoers prefer it.

    I don’t know if the Catholic church does a similar thing. I’m guessing not.

  7. I did have my babies baptized in the Catholic Church just because it’s a family tradition. I’m not a religious person, but everyone in my family does this and it’s very important to my mother. It felt right to do it for family unity. Sundays when we do go to church, we go to a nondenominational church. I would never judge anyone who chose not to follow the routine, or to do it for their own reasons.

  8. On the one hand it would seem hypocritical to baptise your child and then not follow through with the commitment. On the other, why shouldn’t you have the option to do the baptism and follow through with religion in the way you choose – even if that means not attending a weekly service?

    For us it wasn’t an option as we’re not religious.

  9. Rosemary isn’t christened (or baptised, or anything of that ilk) and nor will Eleanor be. We are not at all religious. We didn’t get married in church (through my insistence – Chris would have liked it, for the atmosphere and the ceremony, not religious reasons).

    We did consider a naming ceremony, but never got round to it, so probably won’t. Most of the people in our families who would expect that kind of thing would be put out that it wasn’t a proper christening and we don’t feel it’s important.

    I do feel strongly that getting married in church or christening your child when you are not a believer or church-goer is disrespectful to those who are, which is why I couldn’t do it, however pretty the church. But I know there are plenty of people who don’t feel that way.

  10. Ooh good one… and so controversial in out family apparently! We dont go to church, which is why we got married in a castle and didnt get SC baptised. We had a Welcome To The World party in the barn of our village pub (the site of our first date so for us it was our church!). Each to their own I say & if SC chooses any religion later on in life then thats fine by us! Our familys reaction to both our chosen ceremonies was hilarious to witness… you know that face when you suck a lemon?!

  11. oh, I did do a comment yesterday, not sure what happened to it….
    Three of mine have been baptised, the next keeps asking when she will be & now husband has gone I can’t imagine the next will get done either. I’m also thinking some ungodly thoughts at the moment so may be a little hypocritical.
    I don’t think you have to go to Church every week to practise Christianity. I believe it should be used more as a guide as to how we should live our lives.

  12. None of my friends seem to get their children baptized – I was baptized but then my parents were churchgoers.

  13. Baptism is an outward, visible sign of commitment to God. As a Christian, I feel that has to be taken by an individual at the point they are ready to make the commitment. Infant baptism is, in fact, the parents’ commitment, not the child’s, yet it is the child that is baptised – to my mind, this doesn’t add up! We had dedication services for both our children but have left them to make their own decisions about their faith.
    Interestingly, my eldest, aged 8, has decided he would like to be baptised, which goes to show that it doesn’t have to be an adult commitment, but there does have to be an understanding of what it means to know God and follow Christ.

  14. Toddler boy was baptised and Fifi will be too. For me I think this is an important rite of passage. We got married in a church and go infrequently, but I do enjoy the sense of community and I hope my children will do too.
    There is another reason to seriously consider it though- schools! ( I realise that is me being cynical) but it can make a really significant difference where we live…

  15. Hi – interesting post. Neither of our two boys are christened/baptised. This was a pretty difficult thing for us to deal with over here in Ireland where baptisims are just assumed, another stage in a baby’s development, like crawling and walking. It’s a very personal decision and I think everyone should respect each parent’s choice.

  16. Interestingly, none of my friends have had their children baptised and we haven’t faced any pressure from family to do so with monkey. It wasn’t something we considered as it isn’t relevant to us, although I do like the idea of the CoE dedication service. The only regret I have is not having a naming or other ceremony to welcome her to the world as it does feel like it is a rite of passage for both child and parents.

  17. Interesting post.
    We are not religious, so no church wedding for us and no baptisms for the boys – much to my in-laws’ quiet disgust.
    We have a dilemma about schools though. We will have to decide, in a few years, whether we become hypocrites to get the boys into the best schools. Tricky.

  18. @Insomniac Mummy: Haha. That’s what I call a last minute decision. It’s not easy, is it?

    @Tara: Same here, no church wedding. We had a beautiful ceremony in the townhall.

    @Cartside: Erm. Naming ceremony sounds familiar. We planned on. In theory. I’d be surprised if we’d ever get to do it. But we plan on a big 1st birthday party 🙂

    @Iota: Nope. We don’t do such joyful stuff 😉 Sounds rather lovely. I might join the C o E. I was honestly positively surprised by the mass.

    @Erin: I hope I didn’t sound judgemental. It was the line ‘do you promise to…’ by the vicar that made me wonder.

    @LadyMama: Maybe the underlying rational makes all the difference? I.e. do you do it to have a party? Get presents? Or to introduce your baby into the religious community? (I mean the general YOU, not the personal you)

  19. @Tasha: How sweet that your husband wanted to have the ceremony in church. Has he been a little bit of a groomzillo?

    @HaHaHa. We had the sucking lemon face, too. I guess in the old days, people just did it because everybody did it. They were a bit of the go-with-the-flow generation. Then they raised us to be independant, thinking individuals and voila, we make our own decisions.

    @Lulu: I do understand that you baptise your children if you believe, I even think it’s nice to feel to belong to a community. The atmosphere in the church I went to was really nice. Do you go to church?

    @Zooarchaeologist: I am a tiny bit
    jealous on people who get that community sense out of church. I would love to have that for my little one, too. Re schools: same here! I don’t know yet, but might turn into the biggest hypocrit ever and have her baptised for that reason.

    @HotCrossMum: Hi there! The good thing about London is that society in general doesn’t expect any kind of conformity from you. It’s rather your personal environment, i.e. family and friends that can be a bit pushy at times (in our case).

    @Platespinner: I think I am going to look into the dedication service. It’s the first time I heard about it, I didn’t even know that this was possible.

    @Sandy: Sigh. Yip. Big dilemma. It’s mad, really.

  20. @Chic Mama: I would love to hear more about those ungodly thoughts 😉

    @Catherine: Very well put!

    PS: There seems to be a problem with my spam filter. Sorry!

  21. We haven’t had either Christened. We had a large welcoming party for both. In general people expect it of us, we have openly said we are Atheist and eschew religious traditions etc. Personally the issues of schools is a bug bear – would love to be able to escape religion in primary schools but no chance.

  22. I was the clergy of a multi denominational church when 2 of my children were born and Campus Minister at a State University when the first arrived ( separation of church and state here)
    When I wrote my exams on sacraments, I wrote that baptism was the introduction to the community and whereas the early churches kept all the records – which are now civil records it was profoundly important. And the clergy kept huge records of all the illegitimate children born to nobles.
    Now that is all civil law and churches are just introducing children to that society. Some people feel it is important to go to religious schools ( creationism vs evolution things) and some want to keep their children “special”
    My partner and I got married during a regular church service right after the sermon and did not send out invitations etc.

    My children have benefitted greatly from our multi-cultural program – though it is too Buddhist for them right now with the current leadership. None attend a church but all have figured out what they believe and how to act upon their beliefs and values.

    We did not do private school, but supported our community schools by volunteering and having our children help the kids who got no support. My oldest probably missed out on MIT, Harvard, or Stanford because of that –

    I think it is a matter of what the parents believe and how they intend to pass those beliefs on to their children – the children usually only get a few figured out with out some overt effort and teaching.
    It is not a magic bullet. or a key to heaven that I know of…
    The support from our church community for our special needs child was amazing – if I believed she could get through college – so did they…what a team effort! She graduated in June!

  23. I think, each to their own. We did, but are not particularly religious so some might think us hypocritical. I liked the family aspect the occassion. It’s an instinct thing and there is no right or wrong in my book.

  24. Oh blimey, nice one little L. Hope your silk shirt (and sense of humour) survived the incident.

    Christenings/ baptism all seemed v hypocritical to us because we are not religious folk. But I did want to celebrate my babies entrance to the world so we held Naming Day’s for them. A friend (who just happened to be an ex-vicar) conducted a little ceremony, some other friends read poems and sweet passages they’d found (from Dr Seuss to Kahlil Gibran), we planted a tree sapling to mark the occasion and then had a right ol’ knees up with some top nosh and loads of bubbly alcoholic stuff.

    Much more fun than any baptism I’d ever been to – and we didn’t have to sing!

  25. I had our son baptized in a private ceremony at my parents house. It was beautiful and a family friend and pastor did the service. It was my choice, my Hub didnt have an opinion either way. It was important to me.

    I think every one has to decide for themselves.

    Good luck with your decision.

  26. I wasn’t baptised, my parents thought it was up to me to decide. My Mother’s side of the family are catholic and they would have liked me to be christened but they respected the decision.

    I am always grateful that they did that for me.

    That said I think it’s an individual choice and I completely respect people who do christen their children.

  27. Most certainly: there is no right or wrong. I envy those who are believers for the community that is accessible to them. Personally I do not agree with some things the catholic church preaches, thus having little L baptised in a catholic church would make me hypocritical. I will have to find out more about the CoE. As I said, I was pleasantly surprised.

  28. I wonder where you live in London. I think (I might be wrong here) that technically you have to have your baby baptised in the parish in which you live, and of course different vicars might be more or less welcoming. Good luck!

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