Recent changes to the Christening service suggested by the Church of England’s Liturgy Commission have once again got the media in a bit of a tizzy.
In trying to make the service more appealing to more people, the Commission is adopting more approachable language, with slightly less fire & brimstone.
Making church services more accessible seems like a worthy aspiration, but the Church has unfortunately been accused once more of “Dumbing Down” the Christening service. Godparents will no longer be asked to “repent sins” and “reject the Devil’, but will instead be asked to “reject evil”.
The current wording is part of a trial that will run for the first part of 2014 and has the blessings of the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby, but for lovers of the Book of Common Prayer this is yet another departure from tradition which in the past asked godparents to “renounce the devil and all his works”.
Unfortunately the Church finds itself in an unwinnable situation. On the one hand it has to open its doors to all and be as accessible as possible, but on the other hand, in the traditional liturgy it has some of the most powerful words and poetry ever written in the English language that resonates through over 400 years of our history – which is a lot to lose.
Of course, there is another solution … since a Christening is primarily about the child and family, why not let the family choose the wording they prefer. After all, the wider family of the Church seems to accommodate traditionalists and modernist pretty successfully in many other areas of debate.