The Revd Sarah Lawrence, the diocese’s IME2 Officer, has written a book examining the ‘profound disconnect’ between the rite of baptism offered by churches and the clergy and a ‘christening’ service often requested by non-churchgoing families for their children.

In her book ‘A Rite on the Edge’ she explores the language of baptisms and christenings and asks what it means for non-churchgoers to have a child christened today. Is the church being used and abused by these families seeking a baptism, or is what they really want just a naming ceremony and an “excuse for a party”? Conversely, could the clergy and churchgoers understand why the families were baffled by their lack of encouragement when they approached them asking for this rite?

Across ten chapters Sarah explores, among others, the history of the words ‘baptism’ and ‘christening’; the importance of the giving of a name; joy and celebration in baptism and ends with ‘Reintroducing ‘christening’ to Christian approaches to baptism’.

Sarah said: “When I began my ordained ministry ten years ago I was struck by the very different way that clergy and churchgoers spoke about baptism when compared to non-churchgoing families who requested ‘a christening’ for their children. Although many clergy and congregation members saw these families as not being serious about the commitments they were making, the people I met clearly felt very deeply that this was the right thing to do and that the Church was their church.

“Because the language was so distinct and different between the two parties I wanted to understand what they both meant when they said the words. What I have learned through my research is that baptism without christening becomes stale and cold, a harsh creed which commands doctrinal correctness but forgets human love and Christening  without baptism becomes shallow and detached from the source of its meaning and significance.”

Sarah is hosting a book launch on Friday 10th January from 4-6pm in the King Room at Edward King House. Professor Stephen Pattison, formerly of the University of Birmingham and The Venerable Elizabeth Adekunle, Archdeacon of Hackney in London will both welcome the book.  There will be discounted copies of the book available to purchase and refreshments will be served. Everyone is warmly invited.

Please RSVP to [email protected]