Untitled, by Francis Thompson and William Blake
Know you what it is to be a child? It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness; to believe in belief; it is to be so little that elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has a fairy god-mother in his or her soul; it is to live in a nutshell and count yourself the king or queen on infinite space; it is to see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm or your hand and eternity in an hour.
Like weddings, child naming ceremonies, baptisms and baby blessings predate recorded history. Regardless of belief system and/or affiliation, it is safe to assume that from the time human beings started creating families, parents have observed some sort of custom in presenting their newborn children to their family, the community, and the larger circle of the world.
Also like weddings, child naming ceremonies, baptisms and baby blessings can be completely customized to include participation from family members, Guardians/Godparents, and the children being celebrated. No matter the age of the child, this celebration is an occasion when a new birth is announced, and a child is welcomed into the world. Through the ceremony, family ties are strengthened and parents, grandparents, and Guardians/Godparents become more fully aware of their responsibilities as well as the many gifts they have to share with the children in their lives. It is a time for great joy and some solemnity, and it is often appropriate to remind all in attendance of their obligation to ensure the safe and supportive nurturing of the child through its upbringing. The ceremony often includes customs and details unique to the specific family or circumstance, including rite of passage rituals and readings.
Most important to remember, any ceremonies focused upon and involving children will be unpredictable, often unintentionally funny, and at the whim of their moods and reactions. I bring a great deal of compassion to these events, knowing that for as prepared as I may be, circumstances involving children are often beyond my control. If children are of the age to do so, I take time to talk with them before the ceremony, introducing them to whatever elements that will affect them (use of water, flowers, oil, etc.). I strive to be very flexible and understanding. And when it's appropriate to laugh, I do . . . and I will encourage you to, as well. After all, these are some of the happiest moments of your lives.
Aidan's parents were not affiliated with a specific church in our area. They characterized themselves as many people with whom I work do, "spiritual, but not religious." I assured them that for their son's baptism/blessing ceremony, we could be very creative and incorporate as much or as little as they liked. Turns out, Spirit became increasingly important to the couple as we worked to write this ceremony. And when I arrived to perform the ceremony, Miranda --- who had never been baptized --- had decided that very morning that she wanted me to baptize her, as well. So, I altered this ceremony to include her, too. It was a beautiful day for them, and I was truly honored to participate in it.
David and Deborah wanted something different and special for their two daughters, both of whom were old enough to participate in the planning of the ceremony. As a family, they had discussed the use of water, and because it didn't fit their less traditional belief system, fresh flowers were substituted for water.