WELCOMING CHILDREN IN THE CHURCH
«We welcome you, child, as guest here. A wonderful gift of God’s grace». The song fills the hall at the beginning of the Sunday service while proud parents and siblings wait in line with their little families. Several new additions are being welcomed today at a “baby blessing” taking place in a local church.
By Espen Larsen – Photo: Tobias Østmoen / Alise Itland
In BCC there is a tradition of welcoming new babies with a gathering where they receive the church’s prayers and blessing. The same song, sung at each baby blessing, is a common prayer for the child and the new life that lies before them. Children traditionally are carried to the front during this song, and then blessed by the church. Both the melody and text to this song create a ceremonious atmosphere.
A tradition inspired by the gospel of Mark
The tradition of a “baby blessing” in BCC is not something new, it is a tradition that has been practiced from its beginnings, and is taken from the story of Jesus who blessed the small children who were brought to Him. ‘
“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10: 13-16)
Baby blessing, and later adult baptism
Other churches besides BCC also perform baby blessings instead of baby baptisms. The Pentecostal movement, the Salvation Army, and Baptists are among those who have similar traditions. Instead of baby baptism, the practice in BCC is to have adult baptism. Baptism is a step the believer takes when they are mature enough to make a decision for what they will believe and how they will live.
A baby blessing is the marking of children’s connection to their Maker and to the kingdom of heaven, and they are welcomed to the community of believers in the church. In this tradition is also incorporated thankfulness from the parent’s for the gift they have received in their child, and the unequivocal value children in themselves represent. Prayers are prayed with hope that the child will have a good life, and that faith in Jesus and their Heavenly Father will preserve them during their childhood through adulthood.
A dignified occasion for everyone
Today the local church in Maløy in Norway has a baby blessing, and parents to four small children stand prepared. When the song finishes leader Tøre Gangsø reads chapter 10 from the gospel of Mark.
The parents come up with their children to be blessed after a short message. The first child looks innocently and wonderingly out over the hall and the people who smile at her. “Here is little Petra” smiles Gangsø, before he prays that God will bless her life going forward. He also prays for the parents and for the task they have in taking care of their child in the best possible way.
The Baby Blessing is a milestone for the child, the parents and the rest of the family, but also for the local church. Many rejoice that they can be a part of the blessing of a new world citizen. In the community of BCC, one often takes part in each other’s joys and sorrows, life and development.
A network of faith, prayer, and caring
The children are now blessed and their whole life lies ahead of them. No one knows what lies ahead for these children, but today they have received many prayers and well wishes for the days ahead. Many of those who took part in the prayers today will continue to keep these children in their thoughts and prayers throughout their life.
The church is, first, a place to share and grow in the Christian faith, but it is also an extended network where parents, children, and young people can find support and a helping hand when needed.