Marriage and Baptism

See, here’s the problem with the latest outpouring of “pastoral sensitivity” from the Church of England. On the one hand the official guidance says:

In some of those instances where couples seeking a church wedding already have children, the couple might also be looking to have their children baptized. In most cases, the couple’s wedding and the children’s baptism will take place on separate occasions. This is to be preferred, as it allow for a series of sustained pastoral encounters with the family.

In the Church of England, Baptism is normally administered on Sundays at the best-attended act of pubic worship, so that the congregation may witness the newly-baptized being received into the Church (see Canon B 21).

This is completely sensible. Marriage and Baptism are two completely different things. Baptism should always take place at the main weekly gathering because it is a sacrament of entry into the community of those following Christ. QED.

Look, this is what Canon B21 says.

It is desirable that every minister having a cure of souls shall normally administer the sacrament of Holy Baptism on Sundays at public worship when the most number of people come together, that the congregation there present may witness the receiving of them that be newly baptized into Christ’s Church, and be put in remembrance of their own profession made to God in their baptism.

Nice and simple and clear. The Church then goes and spoils all that by saying:

If, however, a minister decides, for pastoral reasons, to combine marriage and baptism in a single act of worship, the order below suggests how this might be done. It draws on material from the Church of England’s authorized Marriage and Baptism services from Common Worship.

In order to ensure that the baptism witnesses clearly to the reception of the newly-baptized into the Church, ministers should encourage a limited but substantial number of people from the local congregation to attend the celebration.

Like that’s going to happen at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. “Excuse me Mr Jones, would you like to give up your one day a week with your family to allow a couple to not bother coming to the main weekly service to baptise their children? No? Don’t blame you.”

Either the Church of England believes that Baptism should happen in the main weekly gathering, or it doesn’t, but let’s not have this pandering to the lowest common denominator nonsense. What next? Blessing toilets?

Oh wait…

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7 Comments on “Marriage and Baptism

  1. Our church only seats 80-90, so its physically impossible to have baptism in the main morning service. With 40+ per year, it would be destructive of the main service to have baptisms every other week anyway.

    We have them at 12.00/12.30 after the service, and then a baptism welcome for the child and family at one of our main services during the following month. We talk about that as ‘part 2’ of the baptism.

    Like you, I can’t see folks from the church turning up to the baptism of someone they’ve never heard of. It’s like gatecrashing a party.

    • You see, that’s perfectly fine isn’t it? I know another church just down the road from me that does pretty well the same thing.

      Can you imagine though managing the “part two” after a wedding? Firstly the couple are away for three weekends (honeymoon etc). Then they have to bother coming after such a long time, which, given the fact they didn’t bother before the wedding, isn’t likely to happen is it?

      We really need to sort out what Baptism is about. I’m increasingly coming to the point where I’m unprepared to baptise a second or third child in a family if I don’t see any evidence of the baptism vows having been taken seriously the first time round. Once I’m an incumbent I’ll get my say!

          • My dad was a vicar, with a relatively relaxed attitude to who he would and wouldn’t baptise, and it always seemed to me that to have families standing up in church making promises to God that they had no intention of keeping was a kind of blasphemy.

            I was young and strident then.

            • I have no intention of standing in judgement over the integrity of people who come to baptism – that is God’s job, not mine.

              In 25 years of ministry I have refused (more accurately ‘indefinitely postponed’) only one baptism when the couple concerned refused to allow any preparation for baptism and told me point blank that they did not believe in God.

              With everyone else I follow the Anglican ‘gracious presumption’ of accepting the fact that people claim to be somewhere ‘on the Christian journey’ and not judging too harshly exactly where that might be. My aim is to move them along on that journey not to knock them off it.

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