What are secular baby blessing ceremonies like?

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Baby Colt 3
Photo by Christopher Lance.
I am at the point in my life that spirituality is important to me, but I'm just not that sure about religion anymore. I was raised strict Catholic and my first three children were baptized in a Catholic church. My husband was raised Baptist, but was OK with Catholic baptisms. I have since had a parting of ways with said Catholic church, but would like my newborn son to have a spiritual base.

I have heard about secular baby blessings a long time ago, and have always wanted to do one, but the Catholic guilt instilled in me prevented me from going that route. Now that I'm more comfortable in my spiritual choices, I would like to have a baby blessing ceremony.

I have found a few helpful websites, and some beautiful ceremony ideas, but I would really like some first-hand stories of successful ceremonies. I was wondering if churches in general accept "outside baptisms," if any priests/ministers/rabbis do home baptisms, or if this idea is wholly off the wall. Has anyone had any experience with baby blessing ceremonies? — Sarah

We've featured one example — what other ideas do you guys have?

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  1. You know Rabbis don't do baptisms, right? A baby naming is what you would ask a rabbi for, and that's typically when they are given a Hebrew name. It can be done in Synagogue or at home.

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  2. I'm not sure what country you are in but in the states there's a denomination known as Unitarian Universalists. UU's believe in everyone's worth and everyone's truth is their own. They have this absolutely lovely baby dedication ceremony that is solely to honor the baby's life and bless him for the future – in a secular spiritual community kind of way. A great example is here: http://www.philauu.org/baby-dedications
    You should see if there is a UU congregation near you and ask them about it!

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    • I read the attached link about blessing your child with the rose petals. I am not religious but i want my daughter blessed spiritually and i loved this idea. I live in Barrie ontario and was wondering can i get it done here and how do i find out?

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  3. I am really intrigued and interested in this post, because I am expecting and have been wondering how I would handle the whole Baptism thing. For most of my life I have been a protestant Christian (UCC & then Methodist) but have moved more towards a general deist philosophy. Fiance is an atheist. We both agree that we will teach our child to think for themselves and make her own decisions about her spirituality as she matures. As part of that I was considering skipping baptism altogether as I saw it as promising to raise her as a Christian and I can't promise that. So I was curious about your desire for a secular blessing ceremony. I see you have Christian roots – so are you looking for something that's Christian-based but more generic? If not, what is your reasoning behind why you want to have a blessing ceremony at all? I'm really interested in your perspective as I ponder these things for my new family.

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  4. we had a blessing instead of a baptism for our daugther–we talked it through with the wonderful minister of a church we're loosely associated with and she agreed to do the ceremony, which was mostly non-religious and focused on family and friends. It was, if I do say so myself, beautiful and meaningful. I've been to similarly wonderful ceremonies at secular humanist and UU buildings. I'd be happy to email a copy of our ceremony if anyone is interested.

    ETA: we wanted to do the ceremony because it felt important to officially welcome our daughter into our family and community. It gave everyone a chance to publicly state their support and love for her, and it gave us a good opportunity to show her off to those who don't get a chance to visit often.

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    • Isa, my husband and I are having a blessing for our daughter on October 7th and are still trying to find ceremonial words.. could you email them to me?

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    • I'm in the process of putting together a baby blessing for my son and would love a copy of your ceremony.

  5. We had a mostly-secular, Judaism-based baby naming "brit shalom" ceremony. We had it at our home without a rabbi or other religious leader. We put together some readings from the internet, some that we wrote, and some from the Reform Judaism prayer book. It was really lovely and meaningful without being particularly religious.

  6. We plan to bless the future baby at home secularly; we don't identify with any one religion, but many. We'll probably do it when the moon phase is the same as when the child was born (at around 3 weeks) and we'll pray; meditate; and burn sage and waft it with a hawk feather for courage, and with a wild turkey feather for living-in-the-moment-ness blessings.
    Just do what seems right :o)

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  7. My flavor of Christian community doesn't baptize or christen babies, because the idea is that it should be something they choose later as their own faith develops. Instead we have a "dedication" ceremony. The parents promise to raise the child according to their beliefs, the church community promises to support the parents as an extension of the "spiritual family" and the pastor/elder or special friend or relative (sometimes more than one) will pray for blessing for the baby and the family.

    I think that type of ceremony could be adapted to any belief system. You can write "vows" about how you will raise your child – according to the values you and your partner share, ask your friends and family to commit to supporting your family as "the village", and have special people in your lives read blessings/wishes for the baby.

    1 agrees
  8. We had a "naming day" for my daughter when she was one, just before her first birthday party. It was at the house, those closest to us, who were not going to be uncomfortable with it, were invited. We wrote the ceremony ourselves (me, her dad, and my mom). We formed a circle and passed her from person to person and each of us welcomed her into the circle and pledged to protect, nurture, and guide her in our own special ways: my sister vowed to make sure she was always well dressed, for instance, and since then has bought her wardrobe basics twice a year, every year; or my father pledged to be her soundtrack, and has given her music CDs, helped her "write" songs, and accompanied her on guitar when she wanted to give a concert, ever since. We each placed a wish (or prayer for those who wanted to call it that)for her on folded paper in the back yard grill and burned them. Then we all cried and got the house ready for the big birthday bash. And it was beautiful.

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  9. My partner and I are working on starting our family, and the to baptize or not has been a question that we've been successfully avoiding (we'll cross that bridge when we get to it) but now it looks like we are going to have to cross that bridge soon. I really love this idea, but was wondering if any of you out there have found a way to introduce a secular ceremony like this to your religious family. My immediate family knows where I stand religiously (atheist) but I haven't outed myself to my Catholic in-laws. I know that they will ask about baptizing our future offspring, and as easy as it would be keep quiet and baptize the baby to keep the peace, but I feel that it would be more disrespectful to fake funk. Help!

    • I think people are becoming more tolerant of unbelief, to a degree. I'm also an atheist, and had some brief unease that my fiance's more religious extended family would frown on our entirely secular wedding ceremony….but no one said a thing, or seemed to look down on us for not including a prayer of any kind. Maybe I'll get some questions at the next family gathering…but so far so good.
      Maybe the best response if your Catholic family questions is just to say that you want your child to decide for themselves whether or not that want to be baptized…and then just change the subject.

    • Unfortunately I think it's just going to keep coming up until you have a conversation about it. I mean, someday the conversation will be about whether you're going to church every Sunday, or your child will come home from Grandma's singing religious songs, or something. Since it's your partner's family, you may want to talk with your partner about whether your partner should be the person to have that conversation.

  10. I am fairly sure that my vicar would do a home baptism IF it were for a family who are known to him and attend church regularly.

    Sadly most infant baptism families come to services for a couple of months and then we never see them again.

    There are families in our church who don't really go along with infant baptism (us included) but it's still appropriate to have a thanks giving or a dedication service for a new (ish) baby.

    My daughter is 6 and has recently decided (for herself) that she would like to be baptised. I am very happy and very proud. 🙂

  11. We included a naming ceremony as part of our wedding. Our son was 18 months at the time, and it fit in with the wedding ceremony really well. All our family was there anyway, and we were able to pay tribute to some who weren't by talking about the significance of our son's names, and who he was named after. We hired a minister from a service in Ontario that connects you with Ministers of all kinds. Ours was Christian, but also an academic with a philosophy background, so he brought some great perspectives. Between his script, and the readings we chose it was really personal and we were very happy with it. We are fairly atheist, but come from some fairly religious stock, and we heard nothing but compliments afterwards, everyone respected what we were doing and I think saw it for what it was – starting our marriage as a family and honouring each of us within it. Now we have our second, and I'd like to do something for him, but obviously we're not getting married again, so we'll see what we come up with!

  12. Our baby blessings were more ecumenical than secular, but they had many secular aspects. One Quaker tradition that I really enjoyed was passing the baby around to family and friends so they could each greet her (she slept through it!). At my younger daughter's blessing, my mother read a book to all the kids who were there. We had a basket with little slips of paper where everyone could offer wishes or blessings for the baby. My father-in-law was a Methodist minister, and he was the official officiant, but even with that the feel of the whole thing was not really religious. Just include what feels good to you!

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