Choosing Godparents

There are very few hard and fast rules about choosing godparents for your child, but there are probably three boxes you need to tick first:

1) The Church of England does ask that godparents have been Baptised. The Church also recommends that godparents are Confirmed, although this is not essential.

2) You will need a minimum of three godparents, two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. You and your husband/wife can be godparents, but there must be at least one additional godparent.

3) Godparents are not only making a personal commitment, they are also representing your child at the Christening, so the godparents have to be old enough to understand their role. It may seem attractive to ask a young cousin to become a godparent, but always consider whether they are mature enough to understand the promises they will be making.

Godparents are not taking on a legal obligation. They are not responsible in law for your child and are not obliged to care for your child should anything happen to you – You are not asking them to become a legal guardian. You are however asking them to make a lifelong commitment to your child’s spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Remember, you are choosing someone who will be a spiritual and emotional guide for your child … It is easy to choose a godparent for the wrong reasons. Just because someone is wealthy, it doesn’t mean they will have the emotional maturity for the job or the commitment. Don’t choose somebody out of loyalty because they are an “old mate” or because you want to show them some recognition as a token of friendship. Also, just because someone has asked you to be the godparent of their child, it doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate and ask them to be a godparent in return. And, finally, think carefully before asking work colleagues, especially superiors, unless of course you are very close friends.

The bottom line: Choose a godparent for your child … not for you. You are choosing someone who you trust to provide encouragement in spiritual and church life and emotional support throughout childhood.

Try not to put your friends in a difficult position. Think about the character of the person you will be asking. If they are not churchgoers but are spiritually aware, they may be happy to make the declarations and commitments required at the Baptism. However if you are considering a friend who holds strong views about religion, or who would find the declarations at the service difficult to affirm, you may be placing them in the embarrassing dilemma of wanting to refuse, but not wanting to let you down at the same time.

Depending upon the church, the vicar and the service chosen, the godparents will be asked to answer a series of questions and make declarations on your child’s behalf … these vary according to recent changes in the service, but here is an example of the sort of responses you will be asking the godparents to say – will the godparents you are considering be happy to do this?:

Vicar: “Parents and godparents, the Church receives these children with joy. Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith. Will you pray for them, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?”
Godparents: With the help of God, we will.

Vicar: “In baptism these children begin their journey in faith. You speak for them today. Will you care for them,and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church?”
Godparents: With the help of God, we will.

Vicar: “In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:

“Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?”
Godparents Response: I reject them.

“Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?”
Godparents Response: I renounce them.

“Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?”
Godparents Response: I repent of them.

“Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?”
Godparents Response: I turn to Christ.

“Do you submit to Christ as Lord?”
Godparents Response: I submit to Christ.

“Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?”
Godparents Response: I come to Christ.

It may be worth reading those declarations again and considering whether the godparents you have chosen will be comfortable making these declarations. Recent changes to the service may have toned down the wording, but the underlying meaning remains the same – ask your vicar for a copy of the service your church uses.

And finally … and I speak from experience … If you are going to ask one of the godparents to make a speech, do warn them in advance. Even the best raconteur needs a bit of time to gather their thoughts … The more time they have to prepare for a speech or toast the more meaningful it will be.

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What’s in a Name – The UK’s Top 5 Names for Baby Boys

A recent survey of birth records by Ancestry.co.uk shows that a number of once popular boys names are now effectively “extinct”. In 2012 not a single baby boy was named Willie, Cecil or Rowland, whilst names like Horace, Leslie and Norman have almost died out. These names were very common 100 years ago, but times are changing and the likelihood of meeting a “Cecil” in the school playground over the next few years is rare to say the least.

Between 1900 and 1930 names like Cecil and Norman held the top spots, so what names are replacing them now that they have fallen from favour? The last records from the Office for National Statistics put “Harry” as the number one most popular name for baby boys in England, followed by “Oliver”, “Jack”, “Charlie” & “Jacob”, supplanting earlier favourites like “Thomas”, “William” and “Alfie”.

So where have these names come from and what do they mean?

1: HARRY

A diminutive or pet form of Henry, Harry has become an increasingly popular boy’s name since the mid nineteen-nineties … Prince Harry and young Harry Potter may have added to the popularity of the name and recent celebrities like Harry Styles from One Direction have probably helped maintain the number one position for the last few years.

Henry was originally a Germanic name for a leader – “Heimrich” – where “heim” means “home” and “rich” which means “ruler, leader or power” …. So Henry and Harry are regal names. The Normans introduced the name in the 11th century and by 1547 England had had eight kings named Henry.

One celebrity “Harry” you might struggle to name is the Prince of Pop himself, Cliff Richard, whose real name is Harry Webb.

Other diminutives include: Hal & Hank
Foreign alternatives: Heinrich, Enrique, Henny, Henning, Enzo & Harri

2: OLIVER

Oliver is the Norman French form of the Norse name “Olaf”. Because of its resemblance to the Latin word for olive tree, “oliva”, the name Oliver has come to be associated with peacemakers (the olive branch) and fruitfulness. The religious and cultural importance of the olive in the ancient and biblical worlds has also imbued the name Oliver with a spiritual strength coupled with a reliable and supportive nature.

The popularity of “Oliver” has been mixed over the last few centuries in the UK. During the Medieval period the name was popularised in “The Song of Roland”, an epic poem in which Olivier played the reliable and sensible foil to Roland’s impetuous and impulsive character. Following the English Civil War, the Commonwealth and the Protectorate of Cromwell in the mid 17th century, Oliver became increasingly unpopular. Oliver Cromwell didn’t receive a great press for many years after The Restoration and the name suffered as a result. It was only in Victorian times that the name saw a resurgence, during which time Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” brought the name back into the public eye.

In 1970, heart-throb Ryan O’Neal played the lead character “Oliver” in a romantic weepy called “Love Story”. The movie played to an audience of millions of swooning teenage girls, so it should come as no surprise that “Oliver” became an increasingly popular name for baby boys born in the following two decades.

Other diminutives include: Ollie, Oli
Foreign alternatives: Alvaro, Olaf, Olivier

3: JACK

“Jack” is another diminutive or pet form, this time of the name “John”, that was derived from the old English name “Jankin” (or Jackin). Whilst John has its origins in Hebrew and close associations with the saints John the Baptist and the Apostle John, Jack is a much more down to earth name. It was so popular in the Middle Ages, that Jack simply became another word for a man … hence “Jack of all Trades”, “Lumberjack” and even the “Jack” in a pack of cards. In nursery rhymes and stories he appears again and again: Jack & the Beanstalk, Jack & Jill, Jack Sprat and Little Jack Horner. And, unfortunately, the name also became a generic pseudonym for an unidentified man such as “Jack the Ripper”.

As far as famous Jacks go, children today are probably most aware of the pirate Jack Sparrow, but anyone who can remember November 22nd 1963 will know that President John F Kennedy was called Jack by friends and family.

Other diminutives include: Jake, Jackie
Foreign alternatives: Jock, Jocky

4: CHARLIE

Derived from the Germanic name “Karl”, Charlie is a diminutive form of “Charles” and can also be used as a girls name. Originally meaning “man” or “free man” in old German languages, the name Charles was adopted by many European royal families after the rule of Charles the Great (Charlemagne) and the rise of the Holy Roman Empire. The name only found prominence in England after the Stuart kings Charles I and Charles II came to the throne in the 17th century.

Because it is a diminutive, pet name, Charlie is always seen as friendly and fun-loving. Many of the Charlies you can think of are light-hearted and fun: Charlie Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Charlie Higson, Charlie Parker and Charlie Watts. Probably the best known Charlie in the world is Charlie Davies-Carr …. does the name ring a bell? Over 700 million people have seen this Charlie’s 56 second video on YouTube … yes, he stars in “Charlie Bit My Finger”.

Other diminutives include: Chaz, Chip, Chuck
Foreign alternatives: Karl, Kalle, Carlitos, Carlos

5: Jacob

The fifth most popular baby boy’s name in England is Jacob. It is the most popular name in the USA.

Up until The Reformation in the 16th century, the name Jacob was mainly used in Jewish culture. This is understandable since Jacob was the third patriarch and the father of the tribes of Israel. The recent popularity of Jacob is not so easy to explain. This Hebrew name means “supplanter” or “usurper” – Jacob cheated his older twin brother out of his birthright and deceived his blind father into blessing him instead of his brother Esau. But Jacob, later named “Israel”, found redemption and forgiveness and the name today is associated with honesty, truthfulness and a warm heart.

Strangely enough, the recent popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s series of “Twilight” books has given the name Jacob added support for a few more years – the enigmatic and brooding character of Jacob Black has grabbed the imagination of many teenage readers who will be parents naming baby boys in a few years time.

Other diminutives include: Jake, Jacko
Foreign alternatives: Jakob, Jago, Iago, Giacomo

So, what for the future? Well, names to keep an eye on include: Hugo (up 51 places), Kayden (up 662 places), Dexter (up 327 places), Ollie (up 306 places) and Jenson (up 242 places). The engravers at CHRISTENINGsilver have got their money on “George” and “Louis” making a big showing over the next few years …. I wonder why?

Don’t forget once you have settled on a name, we have a fantastic range of christening gifts for boys available on our website here, many of which can also be engraved with the chosen name.

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From Princess to Fairy Godmother

A silver first tooth fairy box

The congregation at St Barnabas Church in Mayland, Chelmsford, had a pleasant surprise last Sunday during a Christening at the family service. The Duchess of Cambridge attended as a godmother and she was joined at the service, not only by her husband Prince William … she brought Prince George along as well.

The service was conducted by Reverend Ken Dunstan who admitted that he didn’t usually pay a huge amount of attention to godparents as long as they were there and willing to make the appropriate promises, but on this occasion he admitted that his usual congregation were a bit surprised. “My main concern was that I got the tone right for the family and for the baptism.”

Some little bunny in Mayland will have some Christening photos to be proud of and we are pretty confident there will be some impressive Christening pressies in the treasure box too.

Prince William had a busy day … after a slice of Christening cake he had to whizz back to London and change into the Dinner Jacket in time for the BAFTAs, where he was guest of honour and handed a BAFTA fellowship to Dame Helen Mirren, saying he should probably call her “granny” following her many performances as The Queen on stage and in film.

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Good News …. Good News Bible Returns

After a year’s absence, we now have replacement stock of our Good News Bible. Although the silversmiths have now stopped production of this popular bible, we have acquired all their remaining stock and will be selling this bible at a clearance price whilst stocks last.

This is a very attractive bible with a faux soft leather binding stitched at the edges. The binding is supple, leather-like and very tactile. There is a strip of hallmarked sterling silver on the cover with a plain cross embossed at the base.

The Good News Bible is a modern translation, written in plain, uncomplicated language. The accessibility of the text and simplicity of the contemporary typography make this the perfect bible for children – easy to read and less daunting than the King James version.

This is a bible that encourages daily use and, as a constant companion, is the perfect Christening gift for both boys and girls.

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A Christening Service without Sin and the Devil

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.

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The Royal Christening

 

Now that the dust has settled following the Christening of Prince George in the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace, we can look back on a ceremony that reflects both tradition and informality in equal measure.

William and Kate kept the occasion as simple and low-key as is possible when Christening a future king of Great Britain. They broke with tradition and, as well as holding the ceremony away from Buckingham Palace, they avoided the usual assortment of minor European Royals and unknown aristocracy on the list of godparents and stuck to close friends and family.

The godparents included:

Zara Tindall (Princess Anne’s daughter – William’s cousin)

Emilia Jardine-Paterson (A school friend of Kate)

Oliver Baker (A university friend of both William and Kate)

Julia Samuel (A close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales)

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton (William and Harry’s private secretary)

William van Cutsem (A long term friend of William)

Earl Grosvenor (Heir to the Duke of Westminster)

 

The names given to Prince George at his Christening (George Alexander Louis) carry the weight of both national and family history. The name George has been associated with the crown since 1714. The last George on the throne was George VI, the Queen’s father (Prince George’s Great, Great Grandfather). George VI was actually Christened Albert Frederick Arthur George, but he took his last name for use as Sovereign.

“Alexander” is a less obvious choice, but it might be a tribute to the Queen whose second name is Alexandra. It has been suggested that the name also includes a nod to Scotland where Alexander III is considered, as Sellar & Yeatman would have it, a “Good King”.

“Louis” is a name George shares with his father, William Arthur Phillip Louis, but it was probably more likely that the name was given to recognise the Duke of Edinburgh’s uncle and Prince Charles’s mentor, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

The post-Christening shindig was hosted by Prince George’s grandparents, Prince Charles and Camilla, at their London residence, Clarence House. The four official portraits were taken here in the Morning Room by Jason Bell. One photograph is particularly eye-catching and pretty unique – an image of George, William, Charles & The Queen. Four generations on, or destined for, the throne.

Two other little known facts:

He wasn’t baptised in just any old water. The water in the font at the Chapel Royal came from the River Jordan.

The most unusual Christening gift so far? A wildflower meadow in Transylvania.

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Christening Speech – Top Toast Tips

 

If you’re not used to public speaking, standing up to make a toast or speech in front of a packed Christening party can seem a bit daunting. Here are a few simple tips to making a successful Christening Speech or Baptism Toast:

1) Thank the parents for organising such a special Christening and thank them for giving you the honour of being the little bundle of joy’s godparent.

2) Before the speech, talk to your godchild’s parents and ask if there is anything special they wish you to say on their behalf – there may be relatives who have travelled a long way or friends who have been particularly supportive.

3) Briefly discuss how lucky your godchild is to be born into such a loving family and look to his/her future with hope.

4) Assure your godchild, the parents and the party that you will be there as a mentor and guide through the good times and in adversity.

5) If possible put in a quick word of thanks for the vicar or priest, the catering staff and all the guests for attending such a special occasion and for their Christening gifts.

Finally finish off with a short toast. There are a few ideas listed below which you can personalise. But the bottom line is – don’t be too sentimental. Short and to the point goes down well with all concerned.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses and drink a toast to young Johnny  – wealth, health & happiness!”

“Be loving with your family, selfless with your friends and generous to everyman.”

“We wish young Johnny good fortune, health and peace on his journey through life. May he find love and comfort when he is troubled, may he find true friendship as he grows and may he learn to be kind and considerate to everyone he meets over what we hope will be a long and happy life.”

If you have any additional advice for a future Christening speech or Baptism Toast please do add your comments here … There are plenty of first time godparents out there who would appreciate a bit of support!

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The Christening Service Dumbing Down to “Baptism-Lite”

With the current debate about “Champagne Christenings”, we reprint a piece written in 2011 considering the implications of less formal baptisms:

The King James Authorised Version of the bible is being celebrated this year – 400 years old and the language is still some of the most resonant in English. No matter what your religious persuasion, the seventeenth century translators certainly knew how to turn a phrase or two … apart from all the “begatting” that goes on in Genesis which can be a bit tedious.

Around the same time, using similar language, the Book of Common Prayer gave us the foundation for worship that lasted hundreds of years. Apart from the occasional tinkering over time, the Book of Common Prayer survived until the 1980’s when the Alternative Service Book was introduced, followed by the Common Worship series in 2000. Many of the changes were probably overdue with old services like the “Churching of Women” receiving their just deserts. Unfortunately, however, the erosion of that wonderful 17th century language had also begun in earnest.

And now, in 2011, the General Synod of the Church of England has decided to revisit the Baptism Service … to tone down the language even more.

The media have not been slow to label the process “baptism lite”, or as one commentator put it: “Christenings without much Christianity.”

This dumbing down of the service is designed to make it more accessible to us poor “non-theologically versed Britons”. Apparently, the language is not “earthed enough” and that non-churchgoers at the service may be squeamish about declaring that they “reject the devil and all rebellion against God” and renounce “the deceit and corruption of evil.” So there is now a desire for change.

This is a pity.

Firstly, the Church is underestimating the audience it is trying to placate. Those of us who do not regularly attend church enjoy the poetry and ceremony attached to a church service. To take away the bells and smells is often to take away the mystery. The Church’s reasoning is that by making the language more everyday they are allowing the service to resonate better with people’s experience of life. But don’t the majority of people seek something more from a church service, something that will lift them out of the everyday and help them to aspire for improvement in both their lives and the lives of others?

Secondly, with around 160,000 Christenings taking place each year in the UK, the Christening service is still seen as an important rite of passage. Surely a bit of poetic mystery wouldn’t be out of place on such an occasion. A Christening is the perfect opportunity for the Church to welcome people to the faith – an anodyne, prosaic service will probably be as uplifting as a PowerPoint lecture from your HR manager on Health & Safety.

Luckily, the speed at which the Church moves in matters of faith and doctrine can never be described as lightening fast and it will be many years before we see the new service in all its grounded, approachable glory. And maybe, just maybe, the authors of the new service will look back to the original language of the Book of Common Prayer and realise that there is power in provenance … the understanding and connection come from the way it is delivered.

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What to Engrave on a Christening Cup

Christening cups, mugs and tankards are very popular Christening gifts for both boys and girls. Here at CHRISTENINGsilver, over 60% of our cups are engraved before dispatch.

We are often asked for advice on what should be engraved on a Christening Cup.

The most common engraving design includes the child’s initials and a date. The date is a bit of a moveable feast – some choose to engrave the date of birth whilst others prefer to mark the date of the Christening. There is no fixed rule here and it comes down to personal preference, although we have engraved a higher proportion of dates that fall in the future, suggesting that these are being chosen in advance of the Christening.

Christening Cup with initials and a date

The next design includes just the Christian name and a date. This is a more intimate design and has become increasingly popular when initials may appear a bit formal.

Christening cup engraving on two lines

Sometimes we are asked to engrave the full name. This is an acceptable variant, but it is important to consider the balance of the design. The first name and surname are usually the most important and you don’t want to dominate the design with the middle names. This is definitely a design to use with care. Always consider which names will appear on which line.

Christening Cup engraving on three lines

Some of our Christening cups are engraved with a name, a location and a date. In this instance the location is usually the place of the Christening and the date is then always the Christening day. It is worth considering the amount of text required when choosing this format, since the more text you need, the smaller (and less legible) it will be since the text will need to be reduced to fit into the available engraving space.

Engraved Christening cup with the Christening location

Finally, it is not uncommon for Grandparents or Godparents to engrave a message on the Christening cup. Once again, consider the space carefully. “With our Love” or “On your Christening” work well, but don’t write a sermon, it won’t look that great and will be hard to read.

If you have any concerns about what to engrave or what it will look like, simply drop us an email with your preferred text and the name (or item code) of the Christening Cup you want engraved and we will email you a proof within 24 hours and advise on alternatives if your initial ideas are unsuitable.

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