Celebrating the Birth of Your Child
In the Cooma Anglican Parish
Has a new child been added to your family recently? What wonderful news! ( ... and yet a little scary at the same time). It's both an awesome privilege and a great responsibility that God has given you.
Can we help you mark this very special event?
One of our ministers would be glad to meet with you to work out the best way for you to celebrate. We want to help you celebrate the gift of your precious little one in a way that's truly right and meaningful for you.
Read this page carefully and discuss it. Try to be as realistic, fair and honest as you can.
Thanksgiving or Baptism?
What kind of ceremony will be right and best?
Nowadays, we provide two alternative ways for publicly marking a child's birth in God's name.
Both services are a type of 'christening', in the sense that they both involve formally naming the child in the presence of God.
In each case, the ceremony will be recorded in the registers of the church, with the names and contact details of the parents and child. So a relationship is established and remembered.
A Thanksgiving service enables parents to thank God for the birth of their child, with no obligation either on them or the church members.
Baptism, on the other hand, is a sign of membership in God's church, expressed locally:
- It is a ceremony which symbolises Jesus' death and our death, and therefore carries with it various responsibilities
- Baptism is a sign of discipleship which, for Jesus' followers, involves a complete change of lifestyle, including a commitment to meet together with God's people week by week.
Looking to the Future...
There's no fork in the road. That is, choosing either of the two ceremonies now doesn't in any way preclude taking up the other later on.
Some families have chosen a Thanksgiving service as more appropriate initially, but have then taken the opportunity to explore the spiritual commitment involved in Baptism. Later they have had their child baptised.
What's Right for My Child Now?+
Through many conversations over many years with new parents who express interest in celebrating the gift of their child in church, I've observed that whilst there are some universal concerns and values, I'm really meeting two groups of parents with quite distinctive needs.
Most share a belief that their child is a gift from God, and wish to thank Him and seek His blessing on their parenting and family life.
They want this to happen in a church context, because they value the church and want a connection with the church for themselves and their children.
But there are also some clear differences.
One group of parents are telling me...
...that they've already made a personal commitment to following Jesus as active members of the Church, and that they want to nurture their children into that same commitment.
They recognise the other church members as their local Christian family who are already a core part of their lives, and they want them to be a part of their children's lives also.
For those families, the service of Baptism is ideal, because it simply reaffirms the same commitment to Christ and the local church that they've made for themselves already. And the service also involves the church members publicly committing to support the parents in an ongoing way, as they nurture their children within the church community.
In contrast, I meet many other parents who are at a different point in their journey. They're telling me...
...that whilst they definitely want to acknowledge God and make a connection between their child and the church, they're not at the point of publicly committing themselves to God, or coming to church regularly.
As we talk further, they may tell me that they want to be true to themselves and not be hypocrites by making public promises they're not yet confident of keeping.
A few add that they want their child to make his/her own choice when old enough, instead of deciding for them.
Others might say: "We want more time to think through the commitment side."
For these families, the Baptism service is not the best fit, even if they or other family members have been baptised before. Partly for this reason, the Thanksgiving service has been developed to provide an equally special occasion which is more realistic for their stage of spiritual exploration and allows them to be fair to themselves.
A Thanksgiving Service+
The Thanksgiving service centres on:
- thanksgiving prayers for the gift of the child
- listening to God's word the Bible
- naming the child
- prayers for God's blessing on the child and the family.
The family are not asked to profess faith or commitment, either to Christ or the church. However, the parents may optionally read a statement of thanksgiving to God.
The church members are not asked to express a specific ongoing commitment to the family (though some may choose to offer this personally... and we're a friendly bunch!).
You express an acknowledgement of God's connection with your child, and you establish (or reaffirm) a link with the church here in this parish.
Because the Thanksgiving service - unlike Baptism - doesn't express ongoing church membership, it needn't necessarily take place during a Sunday service in the church building.
The people of your local Anglican congregation would be delighted to share the occasion with you in that way if that's your wish; but a ceremony at another time and/or place would be equally appropriate. Just ask the minister if interested in this possibility.
A Baptism Service+
A Baptism service involves all that the Thanksgiving involves, but centres on the parents and sponsors (or godparents) publicly affirming:
- their faith in Jesus as their saviour and master
- their determination to live a changed lifestyle
- their considered intention to be active members of the church together with their children, from now on.
Those solemn affirmations are the foundation on which any child (or adult) is baptised with water in accordance with Jesus' instruction to his first followers.
The service also involves a public commitment by the church members to supporting the parents in their promises. They can do this meaningfully and in good conscience, because they know the family and will continue to share in their lives closely.
Two things are very important in order for a baptism to be a truly meaningful occasion for you. Both are a normal expectation for Christian Baptism in most churches, and certainly Anglican churches. Our ministers are accountable to the wider church leadership for ensuring that these are met as far as possible, in the best spiritual interests of you - the family:
- appropriate preparation, so that you can be sure of
understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a member of
God's family, the church.
You will then be in a position to realistically assess whether the commitments involved in Baptism are right for you now.
We encourage you to allow unhurried time for preparation, and would recommend at least one month (ideally two);
- beginning a relationship with a local church community. The Christian faith is intended to be lived out in local communities of believers.
Setting a Date+
Baptisms are normally held during a Sunday service. At St Paul's Cooma, baptisms are usually on the second Sunday of the month.
Thanksgivings can be held on other days.
For those who live outside the Monaro+
If you choose Baptism and you don't presently live in the Monaro region, naturally we'll introduce you to a local church in your area, so that you can live out your Christian faith commitment meaningfully and raise your children in a Christian community.
We'd be delighted if you visited us again on occasion; but if our community is a very long drive from home, we'd be much more delighted to know that you're growing in following Jesus through sharing in the ongoing life of his people in your own community.
That way, we can know that you and your children are in the best possible place for your child's baptism to be the beginning of something that lasts.
If this doesn't make much sense to you right now: we encourage you to approach your baptism preparation with openness. The more you grasp what following Jesus means, the more natural it will be to want to gather with his people week by week. And a local Christian community is the best place to do that.
A local church is by far the best place for baptism preparation to happen too - even if the baptism ceremony still takes place in one of the churches of our parish. Our community is centred on the Monaro region, and so that's where our responsibility lies. Our ministers will be very happy to discuss this special occasion with you, and (if desired) to conduct a service for your child here - but cannot realistically invest significant time in families who live a long distance away. Your local church and minister can serve you much better, as you prepare for such a special occasion.
We in the Anglican Church work hard to build up and encourage each local faith community. So as well as believing that the local church is the best place for you, we also express our loyalty to one another as churches and/or ministers by encouraging people we meet to consider their local church.
In other words, it's good for everyone - individuals, families, the local church, ministers, and the local community.
For all these reasons, whilst still willing to provide either a Thanksgiving or a Baptism in one of our churches, we'd be very happy indeed if your contact with a local church led to you celebrating the gift of your child there rather than here. But that decision remains yours.
One of our ministers will meet with you, so that you can explore options, ask any questions and decide on the ceremony together. For a baptism, the minister will also arrange for preparation.
The application form below gives us some basics about who you are, and where and when you want the ceremony. After we receive your form, we will get in touch to arrange an appointment.
To apply offline: print off the form at the end of the PDF booklet, 'Celebrating the Gift of Your Child', complete it and post to:
Anglican Parish of Cooma
PO Box 43
Cooma NSW 2630
or scan and email us.
Not ready yet to fill out a form? Simply email us; or phone 6452 1544 for an appointment.