Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Watering it down?

 The Church of England synod has voted to update the service of Baptism to make it less daunting and more  accessible. Undoubtedly some forms are a little daunting, even Rowan Williams said he found the service "wordy" ( it must be bad then, chaps...) The book of common prayer asks for the child to be "delivered from (God's) wrath" and that "all carnal desires may die in him"... so the ABC could have a point there.  However, baptism is in itself a ritual invested with complex symbolism and significance - in simplifying there is always a danger that that beauty and richness is lost.

I only heard this news item briefly on the way home, but I think the decision was in part motivated by a decline in the numbers of people getting their children baptised. I am all for updating if Rowan Williams is getting bored by the services, but I  would also ask whether the decline in baptismal uptake might actually be more to do with our increasingly secular society than in the service itself?

Do the average parents, when contemplating the prospect of getting the sprog wetted, really say to each other, "Well, let's have a gander at the words of the service. Hmmm...strikes me as a bit wordy and daunting, let's not bother..." Of course, they might well say, "That church down the road...looks a bit daunting to me...full of  stuffy old folks...not my sort of place, let's not bother..."

Which is not quite the same thing. Is it?

3 comments:

  1. Do the average parents, when contemplating the prospect of getting the sprog wetted, really say to each other, "Well, let's have a gander at the words of the service. Hmmm...strikes me as a bit wordy and daunting, let's not bother..." Of course, they might well say, "That church down the road...looks a bit daunting to me...full of stuffy old folks...not my sort of place, let's not bother..."

    Love it, what an excellent observation, it seems such an obvious and pertinent point now.

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  2. On the other hand, why have we made baptism such a wordy complex thing? I seem to remember it being quite a simple act in the Bible, easily understood by quite simple people.

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  3. In some ways, but the (adults) John the baptist baptised would have had the concept of sin and washing this away. I am not sure that concept translates quite so easily to babies and the 21st century mindset.
    I think the idea that baptism is at one level an exorcism (rejection of Satan) is not too palatable to the modern mind. I don't like it if the parents and Godparents reluctantly mumble the "I turn to Christ" bit in a flat, dull, embarrassed or unconvinced tone. And I am not too sure about infant baptism anyhow...

    Apart from that, it's a great opportunity to welcome families and young couples into the church...

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