December 10, 2019

A Secular Take on Godparenting

“Acouple of weeks ago, we had our three-month-old son christened at the Methodist church in the County Durham village where my partner, Edie, grew up. I’m not religious myself, but Edie was raised in the church — her dad leads the singing for every service, sitting in the corner with his guitar. Almost four decades ago, her parents met there, when they found themselves running a youth group together. A few years ago, the church was refurbished to also function as a café, and on one side of the room is sprawled Edie’s family’s biggest donation to the operation: their old couch and lounge chairs. Whenever I’ve been there, at least one of Edie’s female relatives has been puttering around, tending to various chores. Her generation of her family is the first in more than a century to not produce at least one Methodist preacher. For Edie, the church is both a house of worship and an extension of her own, literal home.

So it was no surprise that the place was packed to see Iggy get baptized. By the start of the service, it was standing room only; by the end, the back room was already snaking round with a great queue as everyone waited for Edie’s gran to dole them out soup. In the meantime, we had all been given acorns, to plant as a symbol of our love and support for this new life; one of the members of the congregation had changed some of the lyrics to the hymns, so that (for instance) instead of God having the whole world in his hands, he was holding “tiny little Iggy” instead.

But this was not a community bound together, for the most part, by religion. My half of the family and most of our friends all had basically no prior connection to the Methodist faith, but still, almost all of the people I love most in the world were in that church hall. What had drawn them there was not Christ but simply The Baby — a desire to acknowledge his existence, to welcome him to the world.”

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