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Had a drubbing from the vicar, feeling bruised and guilty

(35 Posts)
Chestnut99 Sat 28-Sep-13 23:14:31

We went to discuss DD's christening with the vicar today.

DH and I are not serious believers, but we were both brought up as C of E christians and live life to that moral code. Although God has fallen out of the centre of this, we still want to bring our children up this way, and I feel strongly that I want our life events to have the thread of continuity and resonance which church services give us - using the same words for weddings, baptisms etc as our parents, grandparents, etc etc used, and being in spiritual places for these important moments.

The vicar - not our local one, as she is being christened in MIL's village - interrogated us pretty intensively about the extent of our faith and church going, asking us questions apparently designed to trip us up and made it pretty clear, without actually refusing to baptise her, that we weren't very welcome. He told DS, 4 this month (also christening in MIL's village but by a different vicar), that God and Jesus love him more than Mummy and Daddy, and that Jesus died because we all do bad things and need forgiveness. DS spends a lot of time asking/being concerned about death etc so this was not very helpful. I have started to tell DS bible stories but completely ducked Easter so far as too confusing.

I appreciate that to some people we absolutely are being frauds and hypocrites, but I find it depressing that we have today experienced the Church of England as an exclusive, unwelcoming, cultish sort of religion.

Anyway, have bought a children's bible to try to assuage the guilt this has left me with.

Sorry - rambling and ranting.

Gingerdodger Mon 30-Sep-13 07:04:17

Whilst I can understand that it must be disheartening for members of the clergy when so many people opt for church weddings, baptisms etc and then never seem to come again it's really important that the church welcomes everyone with open arms and I am sorry you did not get this.

Please do not see this as a reflection on all churches and clergy. Many are working so hard to be family friendly and relevant it would be a real shame if this man turned you off.

The important thing to remember is vicar or not, he is just a man, he got it wrong this time, and he failed to represent God's welcome and love. Let God welcome you in and do it in whatever way feels right for you and your family

Ps does your Mum or someone you know attend this church? Would be good if someone were to give this man some feedback on how this made you feel.

Italiangreyhound Sun 29-Sep-13 13:58:08

Chestnut99 Glad to hear this has not put you off altogether.

I hope you will find your faith reignited in other ways. It is not just about your kids, you know you are precious in God's sight, and just as you love your little ones so much, so God loves you. I am sorry this made you feel bad but it also seems that it has made you think. It is not just about a moral code but about a relationship. I wonder if something meditative like Julian of Norwich might make you connect with God more. Personally, that is why I think we have all these Bible stories etc. They are not just morality tales to tell us how to act better, in fact many stories in the Bible are able people who act really badly!

Bless you, not because you are trying to do the right thing, but because of who you are. grin.

Chestnut99 Sun 29-Sep-13 13:05:17

Thanks again all.

I had a solid Christian upbringing, extensive drilling in the bible and CofE rites and ways of doing things all through my childhood and through school, and I was confirmed, so I know that this man is not representative of the church. I know also that we are not seeking to have our daughter baptised for the "right" reasons from the perspective of many - we certainly haven't done a very good job so far of keeping our promises made at DS's christening. But we haven't done nothing about it and we do try to teach our DCs to live a good life based essentially on the Christian moral code, even if we don't call it that or turn up at church much.

To some extent the way he treated us has pulled me up by the bootstraps and I will make more of an effort to teach the DCs the bible stories, and we will say a prayer at bedtime etc and try to find a suitable service for children. But he certainly hasn't reignited what faith remained in me, quite the opposite.

Finally, this has nothing to do with trying to get anyone into a faith school, although DS is that age.

Tuo Sun 29-Sep-13 12:18:18

I'm sorry you had such a hard time about your desire to have your DD baptised. I know that different denominations have different views on baptism, and I respect other people's approaches, but personally I firmly believe that baptism is about welcoming a new member into Christ's church, and that any reason parents have for bringing a child for baptism is 'good enough'. Baptism shouldn't be about you, the parents, having to prove yourselves, it's about you bringing your child to Jesus, and Jesus opening his arms to welcome her. And Jesus didn't set 'entrance tests' - he welcomed anyone who turned to him... whoever they were and whatever they might have done. This is also the message I've always got from my own church.

I've PMed you a link that you might find it reassuring to listen to. I hope you do.

Good luck!

edam Sun 29-Sep-13 10:47:40

Btw, I've always found Methodists and Unitarians very welcoming of anyone who has been turned away by unfriendly CofE vicars who don't understand what their role is or what being the established church means.

zzzzz Sun 29-Sep-13 09:58:00

How horrid for you to feel so judged, and poor vicar to be so lost with it all.

As far as your dc goes, "Mummy and Daddy love you SO much. They loved you before you were born and they will love you good or bad forever. God is like a Father to us all and his love is infinite. He loves you and Mummy and Daddy. He has loved you since before you were born and he will love you, good or bad, forever."

Be very mindful that you and your family and the vicar are all equal in the eyes of God. I can see why the vicar might struggle with you feeling continuity was more of an issue fr you than Jesus, but I think you need to focus more on your intention to bring up a Christian child. The vicar is not a gatekeeper, he/she is more like a tour guide.

Zoe6789 Sun 29-Sep-13 09:44:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I'm between services at the moment but wanted to say how sorry I am that you feel you have had a drubbing. Baptism is about a faith journey and we all start from different places but the direction of travel is what is important.

Italiangreyhound Sun 29-Sep-13 02:18:16

Chestnut99 I am sorry you had a bad experience with the vicar. It is genuinely sad that he did not want to be more friendly and welcoming. Churches in the Church of England are all quite different, they will have different styles and ways of doing things and you may well find that a different church of England church has a different approach.

If a church is connected to a school (for example) they may be more concerned about who they want to baptism (Christen) because of the school. Although personally, I do not think this should come into it.

It clearly is not a very sensitive thing to say to a young child that God loves him more than mummy or daddy, although what the vicar may have meant to convey was how great God's love is for us. Which is what, of course, what most Christians so believe.

Many Christians may not put the Christian message as crudely as "... Jesus died because we all do bad things and need forgiveness..." But to be honest that is very central to the Christian message, that we all make mistakes and that Jesus' death was the sacrifice made by God on our behalf. There are lots of ways of explaining this which make a lot more sense and clearly to many people, including people who post here, this is is not something that all people believe. However, the belief that Jesus is a sacrifice for us is very central to the Christian message and is part of what you are joining when you join the church, which what baptism (Christening) is.

In our current church (a free church) we do not baptise babies, we baptise adults and older children who have accepted the Christian faith for themselves. Parents can choose to have children dedicated and that is what DH and I did when our child was small even though we went to a Church of England church back then (some church of England churches will off this and ours did). When our daughter is older she will be able to make her own choice as to whether or not she gets baptised.

I really do hope this has not put you off finding a deeper faith, because I have found it to be really wonderful.

I just wanted to explain why some people in church might express things in this way, and although this is no excuse for rudeness etc, there are some in the church who do feel that baptism should be for those who genuinely want to be Christians. Being a Christian is not about being good or living by a Christian moral code (IMHO) it is about having a relationship with God through Christ.

I hope your daughter's Christening is a really special day and you will know there are many in the church who are really welcoming and always delighted to see new people and new children in church.

All best wishes.

OhDearNigel Sun 29-Sep-13 00:11:47

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20

How does this vicar know that your DCs christening won't be the beginning of a journey of faith ? DD's certainly was for DH. I feel very upset for you OP. Church attendance is falling year on year, it's not as if we've got people beating a path to our door that they can afford to say "you are not welcome here".

Jesus welcomes everyone. The vicar's calling in life is, as racingheart eloquently put it, as a shepherd. Not to pass judgement on whether you are "religious" enough to cross the threshhold. I do sometimes wonder how so many of the clergy seem to completely forget the fundamental message of Christ

PedantMarina Sun 29-Sep-13 00:10:55

Pagan ex-catholic desparately biting lip here...

OhDearNigel Sun 29-Sep-13 00:06:26

please, please, please don't just give up because you've met one (very unpleasant sounding) vicar. They really aren't all like that. The vicar at our old church was the reason we left, when we started going to our new church, having not been to a service for 2 years, we could not believe how different it was

We are actively practicing Christians and having DD baptised was very important to us. However, had our only choice been our old church I would not have done it, I felt that strongly about the vicar. Wild horses could not have made me go back in there.

In your situation I would rather not have her baptised tbh

racingheart Sun 29-Sep-13 00:04:52

That vicar's not really doing his job then. His job is to be a shepherd and welcome stray sheep back into the flock. It is common knowledge that an awful lot of people return to faith once their children are born - the miracle of life and the desire to foster a strong, safe, moral structure for them in their lives. (Not saying this can't be achieved without religion, just that this is a draw.)

Maybe the vicar was having an off day and fed up of people using the church for tradition not faith. but still, if he had been warm and welcoming you'd find it easier to come back. The church I stumbled on when DC were small was so genuinely loving and practised what it preached with such low key kindness, it made faith very easy to come by.

ancientbuchanan Sun 29-Sep-13 00:02:34

Just plan a great day without him. And am still seething about what he said to your dc.

But perhaps you could, or have already? turn it round? ' Jesus loves everyone. But he specially loves children. And when some grown ups wanted to send the children away, he wouldn't let them. That's all the man meant. He also loved animals. Lots of his stories are about animals. Sheep, pigs, a sparrow. "
( mind you, never sure about hoe happy the pigs were...)

And I would buy a great biblical colouring book for dc for the christening itself. in the service. That'll show him.

ancientbuchanan Sun 29-Sep-13 00:02:33

Just plan a great day without him. And am still seething about what he said to your dc.

But perhaps you could, or have already? turn it round? ' Jesus loves everyone. But he specially loves children. And when some grown ups wanted to send the children away, he wouldn't let them. That's all the man meant. He also loved animals. Lots of his stories are about animals. Sheep, pigs, a sparrow. "
( mind you, never sure about hoe happy the pigs were...)

And I would buy a great biblical colouring book for dc for the christening itself. in the service. That'll show him.

edam Sat 28-Sep-13 23:58:05

Chestnut, he doesn't know his gospels very well if he thinks Jesus would have wanted him to turn away children.

ancientbuchanan Sat 28-Sep-13 23:55:04

Friends had the same experience from the RC priest who had christened their first and was repellent to them about their second. They had moved out if the parish but were not regular attenders.

. IMV it was and is outrageous in both cases. Babies and creation are to be celebrated.

If your MIL us insistent that dc is done there, so be it. But find a nice church for the occasions when you do want to go that is welcoming and lovely. There are lots, in all sorts of flavours to suit every taste.

mind you, the vicar who married us was so awful we nearly decided not to get married. Hellfire loomed at every corner. F him.

Chestnut99 Sat 28-Sep-13 23:54:09

Thank you for the support thanks

MIL's village church has a lot of DH's family in the graveyard, lots of his family in the village and my family has links too, predating DS's christening 3 years ago, so again our choice is all about the family links and strength of continuity across the years etc. It's just so disappointing that the current vicar is so suspicious. I didn't say any of those things to him as I got the sense that for him it's just about Jesus, end of. I totally agree at the CofE has a wider role as the "default" religion, but this vicar is not, I suspect, with me on that.

We don't attend our local church (no family service and DH trains every Sunday morning so I haven't been able to face it solo), the more children-friendly church nearby is too popular to do baptisms for people outside their parish and we'll be moving soon, so our links with the local church are minimal.

I just hope this man doesn't make the actual christening service as unpleasant.

OhBuggerandArse Sat 28-Sep-13 23:53:17

That's not just an unfriendly vicar, that's poisonous hard line evangelicalism that has no place in the Church of England and will destroy any benefit the church has ever had for community and culture. If you can face it you should write to the Bishop and complain. So not what the church is supposed to be about.

steppemum Sat 28-Sep-13 23:47:58

Well, I think you managed to find a very unfriendly vicar.

But in the christening service, you make some pretty heavy promises. Promises to bring them up teaching them about the faith and the ways of God, promising to pray for them etc. It is surely the place of the vicar to find out if you can/want to abide by those promises. The church is after all not there as a social club, it is a church with a faith, so the faith part of it is pretty important.

BUT the vicar handled it badly and has scared you off instead of welcoming you in, which is very sad. I know that there are many vicars now, who don't want to just baptize any baby that walks in the door. The point is that they want the parents to think about what that baptism actually means. But the vicars I know, do this gently and if they feel that a family is really not interested in faith or church, they might suggest a blessing service rather than a baptism service, or they might invite the family along to something, eg the alpha course. So that the family has a service to mark the occasion and family event and also invite God to bless the baby, but they don't have to make promises that they don't mean and don't intend to fulfill.

Do try another church, I am hoping you just caught him on a bad, day, very sad if he is that grumpy with everyone.

FavoriteThings Sat 28-Sep-13 23:46:13

You are absolutely not being frauds and hypocrites. And I speak as a Christian. I would advise you to go a different vicar. C of E or otherwise. It is imperative that you feel welcome.

Ilovemydogandmydoglovesme Sat 28-Sep-13 23:40:53

Go back and remind the vicar that churches were once community buildings. The markets were held in there, people held meetings and social functions. It was only the Victorians that turned them into the serious bible-bashing stereotype with the regimental pews. A christening may be a religious ceremony but the social coming together of the community and the family is an important event and you would like to hold it in the traditional place.

That is why he there, after all. If it wasn't for the old hatch, match & dispatch he probably wouldn't have much to do.

edam Sat 28-Sep-13 23:39:13

He clearly missed the verse in the Gospels where Jesus said 'suffer* the little children to come unto me' then.

The CofE is the established church, part of the make up of the country, and has a duty to care for all souls if they wish - doesn't matter if you've never darkened the door of the church before, you are entitled to attend services, be baptised, married or buried. Although slightly complicated in your situation where it isn't your own parish church, but MIL's. Still, you'd think the vicar would want to welcome children into the church in the hopes that their family might stick around.

*suffer meaning 'allow' as in, adults shouldn't shoo children away

IrisWildthyme Sat 28-Sep-13 23:33:36

Golly! I think you need to find a different vicar! I'm a fairly liberal christian and I know plenty of vicars who would take a much friendlier attitude than that. The church of england, as the established church, is there for everyone who lives in this country and wants to access its ministry, and the vicar was being very unkind and unchristian to make you feel so unwelcome. Even if you aren't massively religious, you are keeping a thread linking you to the church alive, and who is he to criticise or judge - and who is to say what grace might come to you or to your children if you are welcomed to engage with the church at the level you feel comfortable with. He sounds like a bit of an arse frankly.

Unless there is some major reason why you don't feel able to do this, go to the church whose parish you actually live in. I think that, as with weddings, you have a right to get your child baptised at your own parish church, whereas asking for the service to be done at any other church is something that the vicar can choose to grant or deny.

EBearhug Sat 28-Sep-13 23:30:27

Blimey. Most vicars I know see christenings as a way to encourage parents to get more involved with church and hopefully increase the number of regular churchgoers. They're certainly not usually unwelcoming, though some will ask you to attend church before they agree to the christening.

I remember my sister saying she went to the christening of one of her schoolfriend's children, and it seemed to her that she was the only one who knew her way round a service sheet and what the responses were, and the hymn tunes. (Neither of us is a regular church goer, but we were as children, and other family members are very strong Christians.)

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