What happens at a christening?(10 Posts)
Good friends of ours have decided that they are going to get their DS (about 4-5 months old) christened this summer, and we will be invited. However, DH and I are atheist, have never been to a christening, and are somewhat out of our depth - can anyone advise on:
1) what is involved in the service (I'm pretty sure they're C of E),
2) what would be an appropriate gift (to our friends, their son, or both?), particularly given that we are not Christian ourselves,
3) what sort of dress code is usual - is it okay to just wear something smart, or is it more formal dressing up like a wedding (ie do I need to plan to go outfit shopping?),
4) anything else that would be useful to know?!
Many thanks! I'm getting rather ahead of myself as it's a couple of months away, but early planning never hurt anyone
Service will involve singing hymns/worship songs depending on their church. 1 or 2 readings from bible, probably a sermon/talk,prayers. There may be communion (special prayers before, then regular members go to front and take bread & wine- you'll be welcome to stay in seats or go up to front for a prayer). For the christening bit, parents and godparents go to front for prayers and baby's head is splashed x3 with water.
(Not in that order- just will/may include all those bits)
What to wear- yes smart, but how smart will depend on the family. (The vicar won't care). Worth asking your friends.
Present- could go religious eg a bible or just something special for child. A lovely book, jewellery for when they're older etc. FWIW I was given a set of whisky glasses, a bible, a silver cup and a silver necklace when I was christened 33 years ago. Still use the whisky glasses & bible!
My top tip- be respectful in the church- phone off & don't chat through the
boring talking bits.
I'm a Christian (CofE) & 3 kids all christened, and been to loads of christenings.
If it is just a christening with no other service, it could be quite short (like a wedding) and you just sit in your seats. You don't need to sing, stand or pray if you don't want to. You could wear anything from jeans to fascinators but I would generally go for dress & cardigan.
Present: anything, toys, books, clothes, silver spoon. Generally I would only get something religious if the family are. Children's bible maybe.
1) It varies, church to church - some have the Christening as part of their weekly service, others have a special service for several babies to be christened, and others may just have a service for the individual baby. If it's a service especially for the christening(s) it is likely to be more geared toward them. If it's part of the normal weekly service, then it will be a 'slot' as part of the rest of the service, and you will be expected to sit through the rest of the service - hymns, prayers, readings, sermon, et al.
2) It will be fine to give a gift to the child that is nothing to do with God - as you would for a birthday... a nice book, or toy or outfit, or something like their own little chair. You don't usually give to the parents.
3) Dress code is generally 'smart' - you don't need to get something new
unless you are looking for an excuse but I would generally expect the men to be in suits and ties, so a nice dress and jacket would be what I would go for. Not as OTT as some wedding outfits, but looking like you've 'made the effort'.
4) er - can't think of anything
Okay, that's not too scary, thank you! I may well wear one of my "going to weddings" dresses, then, and have a look for a nice hardback book to give to the baby. Fingers crossed the hymns are ones I know - generally it takes me a verse or two to catch the tune otherwise...
If the Christening is part of a 'normal' service you may well end up feeling rather overdressed as people generally don't get that dressed up for church these days. It's quite normal for the Christening party to be the best dressed in the room
If your friends are regulars, ask them about the dress code. I've been to church a few times in the last year or two with friends family and its generally not too dressy (although I did feel very underdressed in dog walking clothes! Unintentional visit that one!)
At communion time you can either remain seated or go up but instead of having communion have a blessing. You just don't hold your hands out for the communion wafer. Be warned, if you're firm atheists, the blessing I had referred to my journey to the church and how special my prayers were! Didn't overly bother me, but if you have opposing beliefs you might prefer just to remain seated.
if the family are really or quite religious the parents/ grandparents will do bibles, as you are atheists I would go for some other classic like hardback winnie the pooh or the very hungry caterpillar (portmeirion do nice matching first mugs that are not too babyish)
christening gifts are to the baby and are generally something that will keep rather than new jeans in age 6-9 months that said there is a limit to the number of silver tooth boxes anyone will want
if you are atheist rather than agnostic I would not go up for communion but stay seated, but I would advise standing and sitting at the same time as everyone else
dresscode for most churches smart casual if traditional no bare shoulders or way above the knee dresses unless very sure church is ultra casual I would not wear jeans for christening though loads of people do for normal services
A baptism service that isn't part of the main service will have:
Welcome, prayers, Bible reading and short talk follwed by the part where parents and Godparents make the promises on behalf of the baby/child. The minister then signs the baby with oil on the forehead. Water is poured into the font and blessed. The congregation then make a profession of faith (which if you are not Christian you obviously don't do!) and then there is the baptism itself where water is poured over the baby three times and the minster says (name) I baptise you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then it is the Lord's Prayer, prayers for others and a blessing. There may be hymns in the service but we don't do that at my church as so few people know how to sing congregationally these days. At some point in the service the baptism family is given a candle that is lit from the Easter Candle to symbolise Jesus as the light of the world. Without hymns the service is under 30 minutes.
If the baptism is in the main service then you could be in for anything from praise bands and worship songs to full choir and organ. The golden rule which I apply whenever I'm doing something interfaith is join in with what you are comfortable with and don't don't say anything that you don't believe in. If you stand when everyone else stands and sits when everyone else sits it will be fine!
Thanks all for your advice I generally quite enjoy church services for the fellowship aspect and singing, so that should be alright.
A hardback copy of Winnie The Pooh is an excellent idea for a gift, I'll see if can find one next time I go into town.
Join the discussion
Please login first.