The word "Christen" is derived from the word "Christ", and more specifically means "to bring to Christ." The word itself comes from English culture. It differs from "conversion" or "baptism" because it is exlusivly used to describe a rite or ceremony specific to babies or infants, and not adults.
Here are some commonly asked questions:
Can a child have a Christian burial if he/she is not christened? Yes. Most churches and clergy will willingly perform this service, regardless of where a christening was performed.
Is a child properly named before his/her Christening? Yes. As far as the baby's name pertains to public records, a name is registered on the birth certificate at the hospital at the time of birth. The church has no authority to change this, although the child's name can be stated publicly in the cristening so records of the church reflect the proper name.
Can my child be married in my church if he/she is not christened in my church? Yes. Generally speaking, clergy of most Christian churches are happy to help with marriage and other ceremonies of people who request their service.
Is a child "condemned" if he/she is not christened or baptized before he/she dies as an infant? Absolutely not! Christians believe in Christ and what he died for. Not only do Christians believe that He died for our sins, but also that He died for "the sins of our fathers." No just God would punish an innocent child for another's sins. So a child will not be punished for "the first sin" or for "Adam's transgression" as may be incorrectly believed by some. One ancient prophet compared Christ to a physician in that he came to heal--as a physician may come to heal a sick body with medicine, Christ came to heal sinful souls. The scripture further reads that as a sick person needs no physician or medicine, a sinless child needs no redemption from sin.
What kinds of formal services are there for infants? Generally, there are three types of Christening services:
Blessing - a child's life is reverently celebrated in a public church ceremony where parents, friends and family attend. Either the church clergy offer the blessing or the child's father. Typically, they offer the prayer and then present the child to the congregation as a new member of the church. The specfic manner of blessing and presenting the child vary, depending on the clergy and the church.
Baptism - a more formal ceremony, sacrament, or ordinance that admits a person into the church. As practiced by most churches, the ceremony is performed with water, which represents cleansing of one's sins.
Christening - the ceremony of baptizing a child or infant. Also includes formally giving (or announcing) a name for the child.
Are there alternatives to christening? Discuss options with your clergy. Since a christening calls for the child to believe in Jesus and to repent of his/her sins (see Q. above: "Is a child condemned..."), some parents are not comfortable with the ceremony. However, an increasing number of parents - and clergy themselves - question how an infant can understand and, therefore, undertake this. As an alternative, a more simple blessing or thanksgiving can be given in which the child is blessed and thanks given for its safe arrival into the world, but no promises are made by the parents or on behalf of the child. A baptism may be held when the child is older, which means 1) the child is then accountable for his/her actions and therefore in need of Chris's atonement for sin, and 2) the child can willingly submit to the promises and obligations that baptism should represent.
Is christening a sacrament? Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines a sacrament as "A Christian rite (as baptism or the Eucharist) that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality." So to answer the question, "Is christening a sacrament," one must consider his or her own beliefs to determine if their baby's christening is a sacrament or, rather, if it is merely a tradition. Indeed there is value in upholding traditions. But it is up to each person personally to decide if christening for their child is a sacrament or not.
Essentials of a Christening Ceremony:
Each religious denomination is different, but the essentials of a formal christening ceremony are similar. The child generally needs a christening gown or christening outfit, usually white in color to symbolize purity and cleanliness. Non-essentials, but complimentary clothing include mathcing shoes and socks. Also desireable are white undershirts, perhaps with a symbolic cross embroidered upon them. A bib and blanket are possible additions to the ceremony and can be kept in the child's keepsake box. Other possible additions are a satin or eyelet covered bible that the minister of the ceremony could bless or a satin boutonniere or bracelet.
Appropriate Gifts to give for a Christening include:
- a monetary gift in the child's name
a photograph album (perhaps monogrammed with the baby's name)
- An identification bracelet of gold or silver
cross and heart necklaces earrings
- A bible
- A customized picture frame with a picture of the baby to commemorate the ocassion.