At Christ Church, Pennington, we offer both Baptism services (sometimes called ‘christenings’) and Thanksgiving services which celebrate the life of your child. Both services actually look very similar. For example, both take place in a normal morning service where we ask the family and Sponsors to come to the front of church. The main difference between Baptisms and Thanksgivings is in the extent and depth of Christian commitment that each form of service expresses.

Our desire is to explain, with integrity, what both these services represent, and what each service will mean in practice for parents such as yourself. We then trust you to choose, hopefully with equal integrity, the option which best represents where you are at on your spiritual journey – be that Baptism or Thanksgiving (or indeed both, or neither, as is sometimes the case).

If you choose to have a Baptism for your child, we will require you to go through a Thanksgiving first (this will be in a shorter format), but if you choose to have a Thanksgiving, you will be able to decide afterwards whether you would also like a Baptism.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Thanksgiving?

A Thanksgiving is a celebration to mark the birth and naming of your child. It can often be the occasion for a family party. We give thanks for your child’s new life, and commit both you and them to God, asking for his help and blessing in the years to come.

A Thanksgiving is the sort of service that almost anyone who believes in God can stand up and take part in, even if they are not sure what else they believe. It’s a way in which parents can express their gratitude for the birth of the child, and receive God’s blessing on them and the child. This service places no further obligations on you in terms of ongoing commitment to the life of the church.

If I have a Thanksgiving rather than a Baptism...

  1. Can my child still be married in church and have a Christian funeral service? Yes, in England everyone has the legal right to be married in the parish church of the parish in which they live. Funerals are not affected by whether a person has had a Baptism, Thanksgiving or neither!
  2. Is it a real Christening? Yes, if you look up the word “christen” in a dictionary, it is often said to mean “bring to Christ” or “dedicate with a ceremony”. Both Baptism and Thanksgiving do that.
  3. Does it make my child a Christian? Neither Baptism nor Thanksgiving do that. You become a Christian by faith in Jesus. We pray that your child will want to do that in the future, but we cannot do it for them through a ceremony.
  4. Does it mean my child will go to heaven if they die? The Bible doesn’t tell us about other people’s destinies - only our own. The Church of England does not believe that a church service, whether Baptism or Thanksgiving, affects a child’s eternal destiny. Having an assurance of life after death comes only by believing and trusting in Jesus.
  5. Do we have still have Godparents? Yes, we also call them Sponsors. They promise to help the parents in bringing up the child and later to support the child in growing up.
  6. Are the Sponsors also commissioned as guardians? No, the church has no power to make anyone a legal guardian, and neither Baptism nor Thanksgiving does this. It is through your will that you appoint guardians in the event of your death.

What is Baptism?

A Baptism is also a celebration but much more is involved, including the commitment as a family to become actively involved in church life. In the Bible, baptism is linked to...

  1. deciding to turn away from our own way of doing things, and letting God take charge of every area of our lives (the Bible calls this “repenting”).
  2. allowing Jesus Christ to take control of your life and accepting God’s forgiveness made possible by His death on the cross (what the Bible calls “believing”).

Baptism is therefore a ceremony which speaks of more explicit Christian commitment by a family who have repented and trust their lives completely to God. This is because it involves making a series of promises which are a public declaration of repentance and belief, as well as a desire to live this out in practice in a committed and wholehearted way (which includes being a regular part of the church family).

The promises and statements that the parents, the Sponsors as well as the church make before God are serious and they cannot be made lightly!

Why Water?

Water is used because it reminds us of:

  1. ... CLEANING. Just as water cleans our bodies and clothes, so the use of water in Baptism points to spiritual clean-ness.
  2. ... DEATH. Water can be very destructive, causing floods or storms. The water of baptism speaks of death, that is, a dying to life without God.
  3. ... LIFE. Water is vital for life and the water of baptism reminds us that God offers us spiritual life, life which not even physical death can destroy.