Services - Baptism/Christening and Naming
INTRODUCTION TO MY BAPTISM AND NAMING AND BLESSING MINISTRY
Thank you for your interest in the service I am offering. I have enclosed my brochure which gives you the background and scope of my work and ministry. In this letter I hope I will be able to answer some of the questions you may have about baptisms and naming and blessing ceremonies in particular.
It may be that you have experienced some difficulty in arranging a baptism or special service for your child or it may be that you would prefer the more personal setting of your home or another venue for the service.
What I offer gives you complete choice about the venue and the content of the ceremony.
WHAT I PROVIDE.
Either a traditional baptism service using the holy oils, the sprinkling of water for the baptism and the giving of a candle to the one baptised. The service follows the usual form.
The Godparents receive a special card and the one baptised a certificate of the baptism, which is also properly registered in the register which I will bring to show you.
I bring a cross and candlesticks, a silver font and all the necessary items. I normally wear my full vestments which are pictured on page two of my brochure.
Or, if you would prefer, you may have some other form of ceremony which may be an adapted version of the above, although still incorporating all the essential elements or an alternative ceremony altogether to mark the birth and life of your child, like a blessing or dedication service. This can be religious or secular whichever is your preference.
What matters is that your choice is of paramount importance. Every detail can be altered or adapted, whether it be the words of the service or what I wear or whatever.
If you are interested in arranging a service then I would send out to you a letter giving you all the details.
Once the booking is confirmed, I send you a copy of the suggested service for you to consider. It may be that you are happy with it as it is, or you may wish to make changes which is fine. I have a number of alternatives which I could send if you are not happy with the first.
On the day I bring service sheets for the close family, which include all the names of those taking part on an attractive and personalised front cover, as well as response words for all the guests.
The sacrament of baptism is free and no one is ever prevented from receiving baptism because of costs.
It is helpful though because I receive no stipend, and because I offer a mobile ministry unlike many local ministers, if people can make a contribution towards my ministry and people normally ask what this should be in order to take their share in ensuring I can be available to offer the approach to ministry I do. After gaining an idea over the phone of what sort of service you have in mind and where, I prepare a letter for you which normally has two or three options of how I could go about the preparation.
The simplest option because it involves less time and travelling, is for all the arrangements to be made by phone and letter and for me to attend for the service itself. The alternative options include either you making a preparatory visit to me, or me making a preparatory visit to you, as well as the service.
The contribution towards my ministry which I ask for, following the simplest option, ranges on average from about £296 to £596. I should stress that this is the average range, but some work out to be less and some more. The contribution depends on a range of factors including distance, time of year, day of week, the number of families involved and the number of children involved and where I have to be before and after the service. So each letter is individually worked out. I am happy for the contribution to be made by instalments, the full details of which are given in the letter. I am also flexible about these arrangements and always endeavour to help where I can if resources are low.
However, let me reiterate again that the sacrament of baptism is free and I will always find a way of providing a service of baptism without any contribution whatsoever if this is what a family would like.
AFTER THE BAPTISM
Many families are concerned that with schools providing fewer religious assemblies and spiritual experiences, their children are losing touch with their Christian heritage. For those families who are near enough to make it viable, I do offer a range of groups for children and families which are intended to help children and young people gain a basic understanding of their Christian faith, the Bible stories that underpin it, the prayers and worship which nourish it and the faithful men and women throughout the ages who have sought to live it. The groups can lead in time to your child's first Communion and Confirmation and becoming an adult member of Christ's Church. It may be that the experience of bringing your child to Baptism has also caused you to think about your own spiritual journey. You may have unanswered questions or your experiences of life may have prompted you to search again. You may wish to consider Confirmation or joining an Exploring Your Faith group. All the groups are free.
All groups are held at Bishop's Haven in Welling. The Parish of St Francis, for which I am responsible operates a Child Protection Policy and all Teachers are Police checked. Fuller details about all of this are available on the page in my Web dealing with the Parish. The fact that I have conducted the Baptism makes a lovely link if the family want their child to continue growing in the Christian Faith with someone who they know and can trust.
There are also regular services of worship in the Chapel of St Francis that families are welcome to attend should they wish.
For families that live too far away to be able to take advantage of the groups I offer, then I can provide information about what Christian groups are provided locally for your family and put you in touch with the relevant leaders.
Having said all of this, there is no pressure to take up any of these offers. They are provided if they would be of help to you and your family.
When your child has reached the age of 12 or above it may be that you will wish to explore whether he or she wants to be confirmed and have their first Communion. This gives them the opportunity to own for themselves the promises made on their behalf at their baptism and affirm their full membership of Christ's Church.
This can happen in various ways.
Option 1. You can join with other families at a regional service in a larger Church which I arrange on a specified date.
Option 2. You can arrange for me to carry out the service at your home or other chosen venue.
For option 1 a collection will be taken as normal at the service and you can contribute as you choose. For option 2 I would ask for a contribution towards my ministry on the same basis as for the baptism.
In terms of preparation, Confirmation candidates can either attend a Confirmation Group at my home, Bishop's Haven in Welling or follow a simple course I would set by post/email. If the latter is done then I would also need to arrange a preparatory visit to you or you to me.
It is of great importance to me that I offer a very personal and high quality service. I love people and regard it as a privilege to be able to share such an important part of their lives. I never try to persuade a person in any direction but fully respect and value the beliefs and values they hold.
I have many letters of warm appreciation for my work which I am happy to show to you and many who have used my services in the past have contacted me again for other special occasions like a future baptism or naming and blessing or if there is a wedding or a funeral in the family, or if they need other help.
My desire for the service is to create and provide a personal, sensitive and beautiful ceremony which will be remembered warmly among the family and friends. I take each service with warmth, skill, sincerity and care and to the very highest standards of delivery. I am only satisfied with my best.
If you would like to have further details or would like me to send you a letter then please phone so that we can talk further, or you are more than welcome to arrange to come and visit me or for me to visit you.
EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS ABOUT MY BAPTISMS AND NAMING AND BLESSING SERVICES
'I've never experienced so much love and happiness created by one person. The service totally exceeded our expectations.'
'We were desperate to find someone who would make us all feel at ease and we thank God that we found you.'
'The service was exactly how we wanted it to be, made even better by your obvious caring and warmth towards children. Our family has nothing but praise for the day.'
'We would like to thank you for making the service such a special event at home. The whole day had a special feeling of happiness and love. It was one that we will never forget. We were very pleased with the service and could not have asked for anything more.'
'Thank you for the beautiful service you gave at our son's baptism. Everyone who attended commented on how lovely the service was and how kind you were with our son.'
'Thank you for making the Christening such a special occasion, one that we will remember and cherish. You gave the ceremony a personal touch and had a way with the children that totally captivated them.'
'Thank you immensely for the baptism service. Everyone commented on how kind, sincere and genuine you were, especially in the way you dealt with the children. It was an excellent service which contributed to a smashing day, outshining our expectations.'
'I just had to drop you a note to offer our greatest thanks for the beautiful service you gave our grandson. You made it so wonderfully personal.'
'We were not quite sure what to expect, but we were blown away by your sincere and moving ceremony'
'Thank you for showing our daughter so much dignity and respect and not bringing to attention her severe disabilties. The service was so uplifting it reduced me and others to tears of joy. We are truly grateful to you for giving us the best day of our lives'
'We just had to send a note to thank you for the most breathtaking service for our daughter; everyone was spellbound by your manner'
'We cannot thank you enough for the fantasic personal service you did for our son. Considering there were three boys with special needs of varying degrees we as a family were in shock at how you seemed to have a hypnotic hold over all the children, especially the most severe, who has never in his life stayed so attentive or co-operative'
UNDERSTANDING THE CONTRIBUTION
The first thing to write is that I am not interested in money. I drive a modest car, have modest personal spending patterns and am not interested in possessions. I am one of those people who, if they won the lottery, ( not that I normally play it ) wouldn't rush out to buy a host of things or change my life. I have been called by God to minister as a priest and bishop and my life has been spent seeking to fulfil my vocation.
Sometimes people express surprise at the amount of the requested contribution, either because they feel it is too high or too low. Some regular church-goers don't understand the need for it at all and some suggest that there may be something suspicious about it, as though ' I was doing it all for the money '. This is to provide the facts upon which you can base a considered view.
First, the main denominations provide a stipend for their clergy; a regular monthly income from which they live. As you will have read I ministered within the Church of England for the first 12 years of my ministry. You may have read in the press articles about the 'low pay' of the clergy but when you put together the employment package for the clergy, it may appear somewhat different.
A Church of England parish priest receives an average £18,500 per year stipend. In addition to that they are provided with a good house that is rent free and mortgage free. Their Council Tax is also provided along with maintenance, repairs, external decoration, water rates and building insurance. They can apply for tax-free heating, lighting and cleaning. They are provided with resettlement grants for decoration and carpets. Removal expenses are paid. They are given interest free car-loans and can apply for other loans for major capital items. There are a host of charities which provide funds for Anglican Clergy for a variety of needs from private education to holidays. They are given a full non-contributory pension and free health insurance. On retirement, they are provided, in addition to their pension, with access to the funds to enable them to acquire a retirement home. In addition to this they enjoy full insurance and legal protection and advice. Of course, every working expense is reimbursed, which covers most of the cost of running the car and using the telephone etc. I have probably forgotten many of the other minor perks. If you calculate all these benefits, you can see that their actual income is considerable.
In contrast, I receive nothing from any denominational structure. I am a cleric within The Open Episcopal Church but none of our clergy receive any stipend; not even any expenses. They, like the early apostles of the church, must stand on their own two feet.
Rationalising the provision of a stipend for my ministry has been carefully achieved over the last 10 years and I have aimed to provide something in line with a cleric's stipend without all the 'added perks'. What needs to be understood is that while some parts of my ministry can be associated with a requested contribution, other parts cannot.
For instance, my ministry with the homeless, my funeral after care for the children and families of the bereaved, my ministry to the distressed, my support of the sick and dying, my child and adult teaching groups and confirmation, my provision of daily worship and fellowship group, my support of the clergy of the Church, many of my Episcopal duties and my ministry with the poor. This is not exhaustive.
Some of the above can be time consuming and exacting, for instance watching continuously beside the bedside of a dying patient for three days and three nights to be with them as they crossed the veil into the arms of Jesus, or travelling to North Yorkshire or Wales to help in emergency or pastoral situations, or providing a safe home for a child whose parents had been arrested, or trying to provide the homeless with accommodation and other appropriate help, or fulfilling my role as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the charity The Holy Circle Trust. Hours of time and considerable amounts of money can be consumed with no financial support.
So I have to look towards the brighter parts of my ministry to support the more traumatic. Contributions are then linked to the provision of my flexible, accessible and mobile ministry enabling weddings, baptisms, blessings, renewal of vows etc to be carried out at the location of a family's choice. The families who contribute at these times are in fact supporting the whole of my ministry and by so doing help wipe the tears away from the sad at a time when they are blessed by joy.
Of course, as my literature makes clear, the sacraments are free. However, there is always a collection plate out at churches and collections are taken at the services. The contribution is based on this same principle.
What also may not be understood is that there are considerable costs and expenses associated with my ministry. People can discover where their local Anglican Vicar lives and where their local Parish Church is situated but how do people access my ministry? They have to be informed and the cost of providing that information through advertising is immense. Then every other cost associated with being self-employed has to be borne. Office equipment, photocopier, computer, brochures, web site, ministry supplies, vestments, church furnishings, and then accountancy, insurance and legal matters, transport, secretarial and support services. Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list.
In addition to this, 10% of all my disposable income is used for charitable and caring work.
It may seem that if I am doing a number of services over the course of a weekend that I am 'raking it in' but what needs to be understood as any 'seasonal worker' knows is that I am very pressurised for services during the clement summer weather but the first part of the year and the last part of the year is much quieter for the 'brighter' services. I have therefore to store up the summer harvest to support my ministry through the winter, when I concentrate on my other church and charitable duties.
If a family finds a contribution difficult then that does not prevent them from having a service. In those circumstances I find a way to make it possible, making some special arrangement, accepting whatever the family have felt able to donate or visiting their home for no contribution at all, depending on the circumstances.
Again the contributions I do receive have to support these situations as well, because practically I can only offer the ministry I do because it is supported by your kind help; I have to feed and support my five children and family as everyone else. Those who know me and observe my lifestyle know that my concern is to express the love of God to all and that my personal choices reflect this.
I hope that this provides you with enough information upon which you understand the concept of the contribution but if you have any further questions about this or any other aspect of my ministry, please don't hesitate to contact me.
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