Monday 1 July 2013

Champagne Baptism

The ideal setting for a baptism?

John Bingham wrote in the Telegraph yesterday about the Church of England's plans for "Champagne Baptisms".  Among initiatives to cater for those who want a "Christening" but don't come to church is the idea, apparently already taking place in some churches, of the entire church had being laid out like a wedding reception with the baptism performed in the centre of the room in front the guests at tables.
Afterwards they are served champagne and a meal while the family cut a christening cake and receive presents.  Rev Dr Sandra Millar who runs the Church’s ongoing “Christenings Project” says some unmarried couples appear to view a christening almost as their answer to having a wedding, an opportunity to invite family and friends for a public ceremony followed by a party.  The idea is one of the early results of a major “market research” project, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and York, examining how the Church could redesign its christening services for the 21st Century.

Now what the Church of England does is not really any of my business but the attitude behind such initiatives is rife within the Catholic Church as well.  Baptism is the recognition of a desire for Faith.  It is the gateway to the other sacraments.  It is not an excuse for a party.  It is not a replacement wedding service for those those who don't see the importance of getting married.    In the New Testament Baptism is for those who already want to follow Jesus, not a tool for luring them in without any commitment.  The idea of carrying out "market research" to give people only what they want seems to me very strange in the context of the Gospel.  A focus group to tell the Church what Faith is to consist of.  Surely we can still make people feel welcome without giving away God's Sacraments for a mess of pottage?

This model of church reduces the Church to nothing more than an events organiser.  A lucrative business, I'm told, but hardly one that speaks of the eternal verities.  I've certainly nothing against champagne (Churchill's preferred brand is a personal favourite) but let's save it for the reception afterwards!

Fortunately for me, for my next Baptism on Saturday the couple have requested the Traditional Form.


Mick said...

Sorry Father, this is the First of July, not the First of April, surely ?

Patricius said...

I have actually been a guest at a baptism in an Anglican church where, to the great surprise of almost everyone present, upon the completion of the baptismal rite, the ceremony mutated into the wedding of the parents. I am not sure if the vicar was operating on the Tesco principle of "buy one, get one free".

GOR said...

From my days in England many years ago I had the impression that some CofE pastors would ‘try anything’ to get people into church – from providing free beer to assorted forms of ‘entertainment’. It was to be expected that when a group lost their anchor in the Successor of Peter and the Magisterium, it would drift into the bizarre.

There is no excuse for this in the Catholic Church – other than that people have not been taught properly and ‘don’t know’ any better. The celebration of the Sacraments is an occasion for rejoicing as the faithful - young and old – receive the graces of the Sacraments, if properly disposed.

Today, unfortunately, the secular ‘celebration’ has become the central concern and the religious reality is merely a ‘reason to have a party’. The vast sums spent to stage the ‘perfect wedding’ have long been a scandal. What First Communions and Confirmations have become in Ireland – including government help to defray costs – is a disgrace.

And now Baptisms are getting the same treatment? Many have certainly lost their way and it will be a long road back.