Christening numbers fall

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The Independent Online
ONE THIRD of new parents would like a secular naming ceremony for their baby, a survey found, as the number of christenings continues to fall.

Only one infant in four is now christened, continuing a trend that has been apparent for more than half a century. However, most parents still like the idea of some sort of ceremony, with more than three-quarters of those questioned saying they support a traditional service in principle.

But more than six out of ten said that parents are pressurised by friends and family into having their children christened and a third thought it was hypocritical of non-church-goers to have a religious ceremony.

The NOP survey for Bella magazines, of nearly 1,000 adults, found that a third would consider having a secular ceremony, such as those suggested by the British Humanist Association and the Baby Naming Society.

Earlier this year it was revealed the Government is considering the introduction of register office ceremonies where parents can vow to "care, protect and nurture" their baby.

Steve Jenkins, spokesman for the Church of England, confirmed the figures had decreased for infant baptism although there had been a rise in those who chose to be baptised when they were older.

"There certainly has been a drop but that is because people no longer feel required to have a baptism but do it by choice," he said. "Exactly the same thing has happened with confirmation. Obviously I would think it would be wonderful if everyone was baptised but on the other hand it's right that people should want to do it rather than have to."

A christening was different from a naming ceremony because it welcomed the child into the church and laid out parents' and godparents' responsibilities, he added. "It's a very important ceremony."

Robert Ashby of the British Humanist Association, which sends out about 2,000 leaflets a year on naming ceremonies, said that the decline in baptism was due to lower numbers of churchgoers as well as the increasingly multicultural, multi-faith nature of society. "Non-religious naming ceremonies can be really good occasions," he said.