What is a Thanksgiving Service?

Of recent months a number of parents have enquired about the possibility of having a Service of Thanksgiving for the birth of their child. This is a very normal practice in some churches, but unusual up until now at St Peter’s - though it has always been available. So, what is it all about ?

Until about 15-20 years ago, a large majority of the nation’s children were baptised as infants, often very unthinkingly - this was something to be "done", like vaccination! Today, the number of infant baptisms has fallen enormously. But, paradoxically in the generally more secular society of today, those parents who do want a religious "rite of passage" for their child are treating the subject with greater seriousness. The promises and affirmations made within the Baptism service are solemn and powerful, and the parents the St Peter’s clergy speak to reflect very carefully on their meaning before making a decision as to whether to proceed.

Many, after serious thought, do decide that they wish their son or daughter to be initiated into the family of the church by baptism. After equally serious though, others decide this is not for them at the moment. Perhaps the parents feel differently about the meaning of the words, perhaps two committed Christian parents believe that only a mature adult can commit themselves to a faith, that one can’t make promises on behalf of a baby. Whatever the reason, baptism does not feel right, but they very much want to celebrate God’s gift of a child, and say thank-you publicly and joyfully.

Which is where a service of Thanksgiving comes in. This service gives the opportunity for parents and families to express their delight and gratitude to God for the new being they are welcoming into their homes, to pray for the child and to ask others to pray for them.

This is not Baptism, which is the sacrament by which we are welcomed into membership of the church. It is quite simply a celebration of a new life within a family, a thank-you for a small person given by God to be loved, nurtured and enjoyed.

Eileen McLean

St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 27th September 1998