Sunday, 5 January 2014

Baptism Service

Updated Sunday afternoon and evening, Monday morning The update includes a link to the experimental texts.

The Mail on Sunday published this article by Jonathan Petre today: Welby casts out ‘sin’ from christenings: Centuries-old rite rewritten in ‘language of EastEnders’ for modern congregation. The online version is dated yesterday, but was updated early today.

The Mail on Sunday also carries this editorial: Embarrassed Church’s sin of omission.

Edward Malnick writes in the Telegraph: Church of England removes devil from christening service.

The Guardian carries this story from the Press Association: Church of England accused of dumbing down baptism service.

The Church of England issued this statement last night.

Statement on proposal to Synod on baptism service wording
04 January 2014

A Church of England spokesman said:
“The report in the Mail on Sunday (Jan 5) is misleading in a number of respects. The story claims that “the baptism ceremony had not been altered for more than 400 years until it was changed in 1980”. This is the third revision in 30 years.

The Baptism service currently used by the Church of England has been in use since Easter 1998. The wording of the service was amended by General Synod in 2000 and again in 2005.
In 2011 a group of clergy from the Diocese of Liverpool brought forward a motion to the General Synod of the Church of England requesting materials to supplement the Baptism service “in culturally appropriate and accessible language.” Specifically the motion requested new additional materials which would not replace or revise the current Baptsim service but would be available for use as alternatives to three parts of the service.

The Liverpool motion was passed by General Synod and as a consequence the liturgical commission has brought forward some additional materials for discussion by the General Synod at a future date where they will be subject to final approval by the Synod.

At its last meeting the House of Bishops agreed that the additional materials should be piloted and they were sent to over 400 for a trial period which lasts until the end of the April. The texts have no formal status without approval by General Synod.”

David Pocklington of Law &Religion UK comments: Sin + sound bites = Sales?


Miranda Prynne in The Telegraph Church of England accused of ‘dumbing down’ christening service

Sam Jones in The Guardian Church of England’s new baptism service condemned by former bishop

A booklet containing the full experimental additional texts for use in Holy Baptism is available for download: Christian Initiation: Additional Texts in Accessible Language. The booklet also contains guidance on their use, and a comparison with the current Common Worhsip texts. Clergy of the Church of England are reminded that under the provisions of Canon B 5A (Of authorization of forms of service for experimental periods) these experimental texts may only be used in parishes authorized for this purpose by the archbishops.
[h/t Jeremy Fletcher]

Pete Broadbent doesn’t like the proposals: The experimental baptism rite - baptism lite.

Savi Hensman at Ekklesia asks Is baptism being watered down?

Emily Gosden writes in The Telegraph: Sin? People think it’s about sex and cream cakes, says Archdeacon in baptism service row.

Christina Odone comments in The Telegraph: Don’t ditch the devil, he’s done great service to Christianity.

The Church Times report of the 2011 General Synod debate is available: More ‘accessible’ baptism prayers on the cards.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 1:07pm GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali complains in the Mail on Sunday that the wording of the proposed new baptism service isn't Daily Mail enough...

Posted by: Tim Moore on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 4:06pm GMT

I am a parish priest. I am committed to mission and evangelism. I have the honour of presiding at over 100 baptisms each year. Our retention rate is not great, but that is not the purpose of the sacrament. I agree that the existing service needs some work on it.

For too long we have seen baptism as an event rather than part of the process of initiation. Therefore, anything which helps this helps me.

I have spent too much time trying to amend what we are doing, but the news items miss the point of the growing need for a better practice and theology of initiation.

There is a disconnect between an initial contact with a family who ask for a baptism and the words which we are offering. In the words of +David Stancliffe, to many, all words are alien. Therefore, the question is how we make the words speak as powerfully as we can.

The current words have not worked, and although I have not been one of the trial parishes, on initial look - the new ones look good.

Michael Nazir-Ali is profoundly wrong. Liturgy and doctrine have to work together. It's about context and avoiding the "dumbing down".

Everything which brings the truth of baptism in an accessible and challenging way is well worth trying as far as I am concerned.

PS We need more parish clergy on the liturgical commission. It is hopeless having the current balance and a chairman who has not been a parish priest for how many years??????

Posted by: Tim S on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 4:24pm GMT

I'm a parish priest too, and since we are allowed to use the old ASB promises ("if there is a strong pastoral reason...") that is what I have always done.
I turn to Christ
I repent of my sins
I renounce evil.

I explain that they are all about the way we are facing, our priorities, what we turn towards and what we therefore have to turn away from, what we put before us and what we put behind us, and that seems to make sense to the families I deal with . The ASB promises seem strong, open, understandable - personally, comparing them to the ones introduced in CW I have come to the conclusion that there is ALWAYS a strong pastoral reason for using them, so I do. This may be stretching a point, but in the interests of the baptism service actually making sense to those who come to it, I am prepared to risk that.
I applaud the Liverpool motion, though it seems to me that they are still over-complicating things.

Posted by: Anne2 on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 5:36pm GMT

Odd that the CofE can bestir itself over a weekend to counter a weak Daily Mail story, but still hasn't commented on Anglican bishops calling for the imprisonment of gays, wouldn't you say? Anyone might think that Welby cares more for PR about non-stories than about the oppression and abuse of his fellow man.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 8:17pm GMT

I think a point which has probably caused confusion in the current liturgy is whether the repentance for sins was the child's sins or the godparent's sins. And also how exactly rejecting "the world" was a helpful thing to do...

Posted by: Alastair Newman on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 9:01pm GMT

Must be a slow news day.

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 10:36pm GMT

Mine is one of the trial parishes and we had a baptism in today's main eucharist.

Interesting to experience rather than simply to read. The simplicity of the new Prayer over the Water and of the words of the Presentation are dramatic and direct when enacted. People seemed to hear their own promises (including the congregational promise) *as* promises rather than as a significant but meaningless utterances (often it feels as if they'd be as happy saying 'rhubarb, rhubarb'.)

I didn't feel as if the weight of typology was toppling the rite because there was room just to show water, oil and light doing their work without clutter. Which made a change.

I had felt most doubtful about the new decision words (I too usually use the ASB words for the same reasons as the last commenter) and I am still not sure, but they were strangely impressive to hear said. Strikingly, more than one parishioner listening was reminded of the more Augustinian sombreness of the BCP service at that point.

My baptism party, by the way, were unusually churched so it was not a typical experience. I ran short of wafers!

Posted by: Jessica on Sunday, 5 January 2014 at 10:43pm GMT

Re the "old service", seems like a lot of questions for your average Ethiopian eunuch. But, I guess we have to keep the dreary Augustinians and Calvinists happy. I know what you're thinking, are there two predestinations, or only one. Well in all the excitement, I kinda lost track myself.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 2:07am GMT

Is it now time for the 1662 Book of Common Prayer to become a "Fresh Expression"?

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 7:04am GMT

How is it that Bp Nazir-Ali, now a bishop in the schismatic diocese of South Carolina, is still described as CofE? Does he still draw a pension from us heretics?

Posted by: Lorenzo on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 9:29am GMT

And as far as I know, the Prayer Book that he is now pledged to use is the Episcopalian one, which is happy to confirm people with this pledge: 'Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil?' No mention of Satan there or submitting to Christ, only to 'renew one's commitment to Jesus Christ.' And these promises of submission are not part of the rite in the Prayer Book either, only 'in the name of this child to renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world with all covetous desires of the same and the carnal desires of the flesh'

Posted by: Lorenzo on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 9:35am GMT

It is now twelve years since the CofE (quite rightly in my judgment) preferred Rowan Williams to Michael Nazir Ali for Canterbury. Why is it that every time the latter opens his mouth all I hear is "I don't like you any more. You didn't give me Canterbury"? After reading this clutch of instant opinions, I say "Savi Hensman for Canterbury". She writes more sense than the rest put togther.

Posted by: cryptogram on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 10:50am GMT

The Bishop of Willesden's comments are unfortunate. How can there be such a thing as "baptism lite"? Baptism is baptism! It's not something that is done by a priest of a bishop or even by the General Synod of the Church of England, but by the Holy Spirit. The precise words spoken (apart from the Trinitarian formula) are relatively insignificant. Does Pete Broadbent fear that some proselytes will receive a second-rate sacrament?

I'm afraid what we see here is a characteristically Anglican determination to substitute liturgy for theology. The logic is that we can all come together to do the same thing, even if we all think about the thing we're doing differently. It's a marvelously latitudinarian aim, but if we can't even agree exactly what goes on in the sacrament of baptism (or in any of the other sacraments for that matter) then it seems futile to look for some form of words that will be acceptable to everybody. From the voices that are raised now, it would seem to be the hardline evangelicals who fear their own theological vision is being marginalised by the new liturgy - yet they are perfectly free to retain the old one, of course. The real problem is that many in the Church of England don't share the theology of the evangelicals, and see no reason to cling to the old baptism service. As so often, adiaphora take the place of the real issues of substance in our disagreements: but perhaps the real issues are too formidable and too terrifying for anyone actually to broach openly.

Posted by: rjb on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 11:16am GMT

Talking of the devil. Am I the only one to be sick to the back teeth of these retired prelates and other constant restorationist whiners. It is not my generation that lost society to Christ. I grew up going to church on my own, feeling rather odd. Why on earth would a return to their kind of old time religion solve anything as their generation (and this at a time when everyone still went to church in their droves) was such a shining example of true adherence to the Gospel that no one, not even their kids, felt enticed by it and all left. Let's bring the devil and repentance back, that'll really convert folks. End of rant.

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 1:20pm GMT

I like Rod Gillis' comment about the Ethiopian eunuch. even with the NRSV omitted vs 37 of Acts 8 (And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he replied, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’) it would seem the current liturgy has at least 5 questions too many!

Posted by: Fr Paul on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 1:53pm GMT

This reminds me of the baptism of our eldest son in 1967, when the priest asked my grandfather to stand in for an absent godparent. My grandfather said that he could only stand in if he didn't have to renounce the devil. The priest reassured him and our son was baptized. But that was in Canada. The priest later served as Secretary of the National church!

Posted by: Peter Denis on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 2:56pm GMT

When I was a C of E vicar, I always admired the courage of an non-churched couple for ringing me up in the first place to ask to have their baby baptised. Some of my colleagues seemed to want to put as many obstacles in their way as possible, regular church attendance, a six week baptism night school, and still allow themselves the luxury of scoffing and sneering at parents indulging in 'folk religion' by wanting some form of 'protection' for their infant child.
The ASB baptism service wasn't great, but the CW version was a poorly written embarrassment, with it's crushing emphasis on submission, sin, repentance and the devil. It entirely removed any sense of the mystery of a baptism service, of the encounter between a new child and God at the font, at which we are all but witnesses. I partly agree with rcb, the words don't really matter, but they should at least be words that encourage and inspire. The ASB/CW versions seemed to be written by and for people who did not really believe in infant baptism!

Posted by: Stephen Morgan on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 3:40pm GMT

The various Baptism services are 'heavy' with layers of symbolism which most of the public including church-goers, do not 'get'. Btw the public always call this Christening - see the chasm personified ! Christening is a more obviously christian term, too.

The bad news though, is that for many of us who do 'get' the allusions and understand the symbolism and its provenance,it speaks of by-gone ages and embarrassingly out-of-date imagery and concepts.

I came to do a running commentary in which I explained (away) some aspects, while high-lighting certain archetypal dimensions Newness, water, light, oil, blessing, continuity, Love.

I recently attended a Christening, in which the elderly Irish RC priest gave his own commentary in which he explained away or made sensible the unfolding service for 5 or 6 ordinary families. I will never forget his take on 'original sin' is that it is ' a bit of restlessness'. He really is a wise and good minister.

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 3:43pm GMT

The fuss as usual seems largely synthetic and in some cases ill-intentioned. This is only as yet a trial and will only ever be an option. Many families who have their child baptised clearly haven't the foggiest what is going on - even if the priest does his best to explain. Any attempt to make it easier and less alien for them is to be welcomed. Many Christians no longer believe in the Devil. The belief is not creedal. Of course, the fact that Jesus did believe in the Devil poses a problem - but it's ignorable or negotiable. And in any case, as always, nobody here is being compelled to do anything against their consciences. Bring it on, the Church of England at its best, say I (as always).

Posted by: John on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 5:20pm GMT

In the comparison between the two services, one service requires the rejection of "devil," sin," and "evil" and the other service requires the rejection of "evil."

OK, the services use different words. But is the meaning substantively different so as to require all this drama?

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 6:47pm GMT

It seems to me the One who said "I saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky" is the One in whose Name we are baptized. What do we have to fear by following His lead?

Posted by: DAvis d'Ambly on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 8:32pm GMT

During the early charismatic period of idealism, a great deal was made of the power of the devil, so that would-be Christians seemed to be consumed with the constant need to defend themselves against 'Satan' at all times. This often led to a flurry of intentional 'exorcisms' - often by fired-up evangelists - that mostly ended, not in 'deliverance', but an ongoing confusion in the minds of its sometimes unwilling subjects.

I will always remember a wise priest telling us that the Devil rejoices in any acknowledgement of his power to confuse would-be Christians, and that we should be very wary of over-mention of his name - lest he actually gain power over us, through our enunciation of it - to ourselves and to others, who may not be in a position to count on the superior power of Christ in us to reject evil.

I, as a retired but active priest, have come now to believe that our greatest need is to emphasise the power of God's goodness in our lives, which, by its invocation, will bring a more positive understanding of the overcoming redemptive power of God generated in our Baptism, and reinforced by our reception of the Holy Communion. This is about positive thinking - about the power of Good, rather than the negativity of acknowledging the potential power of evil in our lives. We are all too aware of the potentiality for sin in our lives. What we most need is to access the power of God's love in redemption.

"Whatsoever things are good, pure and holy, think on these things".

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 8:40pm GMT

Whenever there is a baptism ceremony question to the godparents or the baptism candidate about rejecting the Devil, I often think of Hollywood movies, like "The Exorcist". Cue "Carmina Burana".
I suppose I'm committing heresy, in some minds, but "WE" are the devil. We humans have been given absolute free will by God, we know the difference between right and wrong, or good and evil, and we willingly choose the "dark path". Myself included (mea culpa).
Creation of a "Devil" seems a marvelous way of foisting our dark side onto some "Other". "The Devil Made Me Do It", as Flip Wilson (I think) ironically used to say, is a marvelous way of avoiding our own personal responsibility for our actions. Myself included.
But what really resonates with me in the ceremony is the long passage about water. The physical water itself, through which the Israelites passed, and Jesus of Nazareth was dunked in, and the spiritual aspects of water.
Water has aspects to it far beyond hydrogen and oxygen atoms, or the slaking of thirst, or its cleaning properties for ourselves and our material goods. I bet nearly every religion or spirituality has ceremonies around water. When I witness a baptism ceremony, I'm often reminded of the significance of water for the protagonist in Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land".
Regarding the baptism ceremony itself, I'm not Christian, but I'm in sympathy with those denominations which hold off on baptism until a person is old enough to comprehend what is taking place, and chooses to willingly partake in it.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 9:00pm GMT

I believe the Episcopal Church's baptism service includes:

Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer I renounce them.

Question Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
Answer I renounce them.

It is not only 'restorationist whiners' who are concerned about baptism being counter-cultural. William Stringfellow, Episcopalian theologian and radical lawyer, for instance, believed that baptism was crucially important. In 1963 he described racism as 'a principality, a demonic power, a representative image, an embodiment of death', an aspect of the power 'with which Jesus Christ was confronted and which, at great and sufficient cost, he overcame. In other words, the issue here is not equality among human beings. The issue is not some common spiritual values, nor natural law, nor middle axioms. The issue is baptism.'

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 9:35pm GMT

Thank you, Savi, for citing the actual text of the Episcopal 1979 Baptismal liturgy. I will be using it this Sunday to welcome two children into the Body of Christ. I'm fortunate in having a properly oriented church (thanks to an English architect of the Cambridge Camden and Ecclesiological Societies!) so I'm able to have the baptismal party turn due west to reject Satan and the evil powers, and be anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, and then turn east to face the altar (and the rising sun brightening the Evangelist windows) to make the triple Adhesion. It is always a wonderful moment when I have to add two words to the liturgical text, due to the fact that in spite of rehersal, the party forgets to turn from west to east when asked, "Do you turn to Christ and accept him as your Savior?" They answer firmly, "I do" [but usually forget to turn] so I add, "Then turn!" Always a beautiful moment as they embody that motion.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 6 January 2014 at 11:45pm GMT

I was talking about their confirmation service, Savi, and said nothing about being countercultural. When people have to reaffirm the promises made on their behalf, nothing is said of the devil at all. And my beef was with a kind of religion which has already failed and lost society, why try to restore it.

Posted by: Lorenzo on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 8:27am GMT

And awfully sorry, but I dissent. Our current CW baptism rite is a series of 19 questions and answers, some sort of evangelical 'salvation by faith' promise. Never mind Stringfellow's insights, i've never read the man, but all the truly Traditional elements: chrismation, ephphata, destruction of the old Adam, incorporation into the communion of saints, new birth, indwelling of the Spirit... have been reduced to optional extras or passing mentions in ambiguous prayers... but the medieval accretions are there alright, as is the devil, identified with the anti-christ, quite literally, he who stands against the Saviour and whom we have to turn away from to follow Jesus.

Posted by: Lorenzo on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 8:45am GMT

The Book of Common Prayer was a lot more catholic in expression. Look at the promises in common worship. The first begins: 'Faith is the gift of God to his people... people of God, will you welcome...' then 'parents and godparents... today we are trusting God for their growth in faith', then 'in baptism these children begin their journey in faith, you speak for them today...' and again after the turning to Christ, obviously done in faith, the signing says: 'do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified', even in the prayer over the water we asks that 'renewed in God's image, they may walk by the light of faith', before professing the faith of the church and the commission ends with 'may Christ dwell in your hearts through faith... The rite of baptism as it stands has been completely hijacked by a very narrow view of salvation by faith alone in which the role and efficacy of the sacrament itself is completely downplayed... and the prayers sound dull on top of that. I'm all for reform.

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 8:56am GMT

There's a good blog post about this by Miranda Threfall Holmes whose parish is one of the designated experimental parishes.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 9:52am GMT

What an interesting and wide ranging thread this is turning out to be. Thanks to Savi again for a useful contribution and to Erica for the link she provides. In days long ago, I worked in a parish where there was a baptismal preparation policy which worked: an astonishing number of young families stuck with us. Key points were: it was lay led. Our experience was that a dog-collar opens a gulf - people don't expect to understand what a cleric says, so they don't even try. It was in the home, and it ideally involved sponsors as well as parents (though often not practicable). We used A-V presentation. We didn't ask people to jump through hoops to get their child baptised. I hope it still goes on there. It worked well for me in two very different settings. By and large we treated the liturgy as a given: the family had some idea of what it was about, we used the simplest options, and there was always a degree of explanation of the actions.
I think we would have welcomed the proposals being field tested (we did our share of that, too). I think, frankly, that some evangelical protests about the "absence" of reference to a personal devil, sin and redemption are loading too much baggage on the poor mule of baptism as the CofE has received and administered it. Wesley said that conversion begins with the conviction of sin: often what happens in baptism is the beginning of that. It is, in my own 45+ years of experience, exactly what the old catechism says "a means of grace". I have seen dozens of lives changed through baptism - more than enough to prevent me ever falling for the Calvinist reduction. Prepare people and go gently in doing so. Build a small team of people who talk plain, and are real disciples of Jesus, and train them to do it. Make the baptismal ceremony both welcoming and friendly, and at its heart Aweful rather than weakly chummy. Support the whole enterprise in a prayerful community.
I hope the new texts help. There is a terrible tendency to baptise with words rather than with water.

Posted by: cryptogram on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 11:09am GMT

"There is a terrible tendency to baptise with words rather than with water."

That says it all!

When I first saw the CW Baptismal rite I thought "What have we done to have that visited upon us?"

I set to reading a re-reading the rubrics and reduced the rite to the absolute minimum as here

After seeing my bishop cut even more I edited

The more prattle removed, the more power the rites and ceremonies gain.

I would go back to the ASB rite tomorrow.

How about having Synod authorise the Series II and ASB Baptism rites on the same terms as Series I Marriage and Funeral Services. Let's have maximum flexibility to suit all pastoral situations.

Posted by: Labarum on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 2:54pm GMT

What splendid good sense comes from the pen of Labarum, I wholeheartedly concur with his conclusion. Way back in 1928 when Prayer Book Revision was the hot topic of the day that great Dean: J Armitage Robinson firmly believed that the 1662 BCP "should be left unchanged and simply augmented by an appendix containing additional meet different situations and needs." ( pg 124 The Deans - Trevor Beeson)

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 4:00pm GMT

I've found that what communicates to people most are the symbols of Baptism - oils (baptism and Chrism), water, a white shawl to wrap the newly baptised in, a shell to scoop the water, the Paschal candle and a candle to take away. I give a minimal amount of explanation as I go along - people like to know that the shawl is a reminder that we are wrapped in the love of God, that oil of Chrism is used at coronations and ordinations to show we have a job to do and that the good we do should spread out into the world like the smell of the oil etc.
You can still cut the formal words to a minimum, but have a really rich and memorable service. I also involve children (and adults) in lighting the candle, pouring the water into the font, sharing in the anointing etc. Of all the occasional offices it is the one which is most interactive and interesting, and it's a real joy.
The formal words of the liturgy usually seem to be the least memorable part of it from the congregation's point of view, which is one reason why I don't want to distract people's attention with extraordinary stuff about the Devil which simply conjures up strange, horror film images for them. It's not about downplaying evil or sin, but about helping people see what that really is and why it matters.
Flexibility is the key thing - give us options and let us use our professional judgement.

Posted by: Anne2 on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 4:31pm GMT

I do the same, Anne, but the sad truth remain that no matter how much you clothe the whole rite in symbolism and playfulness, the compulsory prayers remain very, very wordy, constantly interrogating the parents and candidates and systematically focusing on the future faith of the one being baptised, not on the mystery taking place there and then or on the gift of God's Spirit enabling the faith of those who come to baptism.

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 5:04pm GMT

I have no contacts and no influence in General Synod, but I would be delighted if someone would raise the case to authorise the ASB Rite and maybe even the Series I rite for those very few who might want a service in traditional English, but not the BCP rite.

Is this, or could it be, a very simple procedural action? There cannot be any substantial doctrinal issues.

Posted by: Labarum on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 6:41pm GMT

".....simply augmented by an appendix containing additional material"

But, I thought the Prayer Book of 1662 remained normative in the English Church and the liturgy published since was just that "...additional material."

Not so here in Wales where the 1662 version now has a dubious legality and seems to have been replaced.

On the more general topic the liturgy of baptism I was brought up with is most famous as the backdrop for the assassination of the four Dons and Mo Greene at the end of The Godfather. Mostly completely unintelligible to those attending it is memorable for the exorcism with salt and exsufflation. I gave up the salt but kept the rite of breathing also insufflating over the baptismal waters. The more mystery the better, the more wonder the better.

Anglicanism with its lack of a magisterium is heavily dependent on its liturgy carrying the full vigour of its teaching hence the interesting debate above and the fascinating insights and experiences we can read.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 8:02pm GMT

Quite correct Martin but the 1928 prayer book was going to replace the 1662 BCP, hence all the fuss and bother. The Cof E had learnt its lesson come 1980 and thus the ASB was indeed an alternative liturgy to the 1662 BCP. Alas as far as liturgies go it didn't last very long - after 14 long years of experimentation (1966 to 1980) the ASB only reigned for a mere 20 years being being ditched in the year 2000. Now with the wordy Common Worship service of Holy Baptism we are being offered alternatives to the alternative.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 10:19pm GMT

I also think this is sensible and thought-provoking thread. In my last (working class, Australian) parish over 22 years, for the baptism of children, we used the Series II questions including - do you renounce evil? in a service incorporated in a shortened, simple 1662 Matins held separately when Baptism was requested (and it was requested frequently and never refused). That service was held at 11 am,an hour helpful for family members and friends coming any considerable distance. We did have an occasional Baptism in the earlier, main service (BCP HC or - most popular, MP and shortened HC, when those coming were mostly communicants). The Lesson at 11 am was always, as in 1662, the Marcan account of Jesus and the children. The BCP of course provides a wonderful commentary on that passage and its relation to the Christening. I doubt that Jesus even envisaged the existence of a Christian Church (despite the Matthean Commission later attributed to him) and apart from his own receiving the baptism of John, scholars are uncertain as to his practice during his ministry regarding baptism. However, there is no doubt about his welcoming and blessing of the children brought to him,without any prior "preparation" or other hoops to go through, and there is no doubt of our Prayer Book's association of that with our Sacrament of Baptism. Here, Jesus, I think, trumps St Paul. And we don't have to share all of our Lord's beliefs, about Satan or demons or many other things, to follow here his moving example.

Posted by: John Bunyan on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 10:51pm GMT

" maybe even the Series I rite for those very few who might want a service in traditional English, but not the BCP rite."


The BCP remains authorised in its entirety, indeed remains the official standard of doctrine and worship for the Church of England.

Posted by: The Rev'd Mervyn Noote on Tuesday, 7 January 2014 at 11:07pm GMT

"The BCP remains authorised in its entirety, indeed remains the official standard of doctrine and worship for the Church of England."

I did not doubt it for a minute. My plea for (along with the ASB rite) was for the Series II rite for those who wanted a trad. English rite, but not the BCP rite. This compares to the continued authorisation of the Series I Marriage and Funeral Services.

Posted by: Labarum on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 12:49am GMT

If we can pick and mix the worship to fit our own personal liturgical tastes and preferences then why can't we do the same with bishops and select those that fit in with our own theological outlook? By being allowed to select the style of worship that suits but not the style of leadership we prefer aren't we in danger of saying the ministry is more important than worship? The authorities seem to want to ring fence the episcopate and at the same time appear to be more casual when it comes to the offering of worship to Almighty God.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 8:42am GMT

Does anyone know whether Series II is available online?

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 11:29am GMT

Yes, someone does.

I have a copy on TA's sister site at

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 11:52am GMT

Similarly does anyone have a link for "Alternative Services, First Series Matrimony with hymns"? Having given away so many copies to various brides and grooms over the years I only have a single copy left. I always offer a genuine choice of service - Traditional or Contemporary - to those seeking Christian marriage and I am pleasantly surprised at how many couples opt for the Traditional wedding rite.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 12:21pm GMT

You should have been able to guess that from my previous answer!

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 12:30pm GMT

Thank you, Simon. As ever - most helpful and I am grateful for your kind assistance in this matter.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 12:40pm GMT

No reason, Father David, as I for one have consistently argued on this site and others.

Posted by: John on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 3:31pm GMT

And who would have thought that the hacks on the Mail and the Telegraph were so keen to abjure the Prince of Darkness? Could it be a consequence of Leveson?

Posted by: Allan Ronald on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 4:24pm GMT

As per usual the Daily Mail and Telegraph remain wedded to a pre 20th Century world where people knew their place and the Church of England's role is to ensure they stay there. Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali and George Carey both seem to find it difficult to allow the Church to reflect and renew in the light of changes in Society – which we may or may not like but cannot ignore.

Posted by: Confused Sussex on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 at 11:13pm GMT

The article and, even more, the comments are interesting. But, what about the baptism of an adult? Is the new proposed rite to be used then?
Columba Gilliss

Posted by: Columba Gilliss on Thursday, 9 January 2014 at 9:29pm GMT

The Introductory Note and the rubrics refer to infants and children.

It is not a proposed rite, but a set of alternative paragraphs for use in the existing CW text.

Posted by: John Roch on Thursday, 9 January 2014 at 10:21pm GMT

The most disturbing folk religion answer I ever got to "why are you bringing your child for baptism" was "Well you cast out the devil don't you, and then he's protected".

Given the Church of England allows the formula "I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." in an emergency, and also recognises the baptisms conducted in various ways by a myriad of trinitarian churches (even non-episcopal ones) pleas for particular other elements to be essential ring rather hollow.

I was the officiant at two baptisms today. Question - are the words or the actions primary, and is the water the main action? At the moment the words dominate and the water is one of three things we do (candle, sign of cross, water). Jesus didn't get a candle from John the Baptist, yet it is the easiest of the three - I find - to bring to life in the service.

There is a natural focus on parents and godparents, and how they are assessed/prepared - but here we have several thousand people a year at our baptism services who aren't in the church week by week, and the service also needs to speak to them, rather than at them. I don't much care about being precious about words and actions which matter to me, rather it is words and actions which make sense of "us" when we are gathered together in the presence of God - that is what liturgy is for.

I would love to hold all our baptisms during our main services on a Sunday morning - sadly the Victorians didn't take that into account when they rebuilt the church, and we wouldn't fit everyone in.

I will wrestle with the rites I am given. I will trust God always to perfect out human endeavours by the grace which belongs to a sacrament.

For so much gets needlessly in the way ...

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Sunday, 12 January 2014 at 10:08pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.