Impact of COVID-19 on Christenings
On the 17th of March 2020, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York suspended all Public Worship in the Church of England in order to help the nation contain the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been instructed that existing bookings for Christenings can go ahead but only with numbers attending kept to a minimum – the child, their parents/guardians/carers, the godparents, the Vicar and no others present. Anyone in that group who is over 70, vulnerable for another reason like a compromised immune system, or are already unwell with the Coronavirus also should not attend. Our Vicar is working with families that have an existing booking to decide on the best course of action and whether to go ahead or postpone.
Because of the uncertainties at the present time, we are not taking new bookings for Christenings unless it is an emergency situation and the family are keen to have a Baptism because there is a threat to life. You can still make contact to preliminarily book in for a Christening and get on the waiting list we’ll now have to have, even if we have to arrange the exact date of the Christening later. Thank you for your patience at this time.
The arrival of a new baby is a time for celebration and thanksgiving and many families wish to mark the occasion with a Baptism, sometimes known as a ‘Christening’. This page is intended to help you find out about having a service at West Malling, Offham or Kings Hill in order to mark the occasion.
Which service is right for you?
Did you know that you have two options? You can have either a Baptism or a Thanksgiving.
It is natural for adults who have faith for themselves to seek Baptism for themselves and also for their children since those children are going to be brought up within the church and in a Christian household. However, some families find that baptism isn’t what they need.
In baptism, you make some big promises about how you are going to raise your children. You promise to pray for your children, to raise them as Christians and ensure they become part of a worshipping community (i.e. a local church) and thus regularly attend church. Some parents don’t feel ready to make those kind of promises.
For other parents, what they want to do is really to give thanks and the baptism service doesn’t quite hit the mark. They aren’t looking to do any more than simply welcome their child into their wider family and give thanks to God that this baby has arrived safely.
A Service of Thanksgiving provides that alternative and it’s a good alternative! In the Thanksgiving service, the focus is on welcoming the child into the family, giving thanks for this new baby with ending with a prayer for God’s blessing on the child. It doesn’t involve making the big promises that baptism demands.
Please speak with the Vicar when you meet to work out which option is best for you.
Baptism or Thanksgiving, have a look at the services
The words used in both services can be downloaded from the Church of England website as PDF files.
Use the links for Holy Baptism and Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child to see which you like best.
Who can get baptised here?
If you live within the parish boundaries, you can get baptised in one of our churches. For those who live beyond the parish boundaries, the situation is more complex.
The Church of England website notes that part of baptism is about ‘asking for the Church’s support’ and also ‘becoming a member of the local … Christian family’. Both of which are pretty much impossible to do if you are not in church as part of the community and don’t live locally.
If you live outside the parish and did want to pursue baptism in our parishes, it would only be feasible after six months of regular attendance. At that point, we could look again with integrity at your request for baptism.
Where and when?
There are some options as to where you can have the service. Within this benefice, there are three churches that meet in different locations. There is St Michael’s in Offham, St Mary’s in West Malling and also on Kings Hill at St Gabriel’s (which meets at the Discovery School). You can have your service in any one of those three places.
Secondly, there are two main options as to when you have the service. You can either have it as part of the main Sunday service or around lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon (West Malling or Offham only) in what is known as a ‘private’ service. Offham starts their Sunday service at 9.15 am, Kings Hill starts their service at 10.00 a.m, West Malling starts at 10.00 a.m.
If you would like to have a baptism in a ‘private’ service, we do ask that you join us for the next monthly All-Age Service so that we can present you with your certificate there and welcome you formally as part of the church. There is no such requirement for ‘private’ Thanksgivings.
How much does it cost?
Baptism is basically free but we do ask for a small donation to help cover some of the associated costs that we have as a church. There is a fee (set by the Church of England nationally) for £13 for your Baptism Certificate and we ask £12 to help offset some of the costs of printing and other gifts; therefore a total of £25. During winter months, we ask for a further donation of £10 for heating the church if you have a ‘private’ service.
The basics of baptism
Jesus himself was baptised in the River Jordan and he encouraged his followers to go and baptise others as well. Ever since, Christian people have understood that baptism is about a decision to become a disciple of Jesus and it marks the start of a journey of faith. It’s a journey which involves turning away from the darkness of self-centredness so that we can turn towards Jesus and live life his way. Baptism also means that we become members of the local and worldwide Christian family (i.e. the Church).
While most people are familiar with being baptised as a child, baptism can happen at any age. What matters is that those concerned believe it is right to ask for baptism.
Baptism is considered by the Church to be a ‘sacrament’. In other words, it is a visible sign on the outside of something that God’s love is doing on the inside. In baptism, we are thanking God for his gift of life and publicly acknowledging his love. We are acknowledging that we need to turn away from selfishness and sin and make a new start with God.