A growing number of people feel that religion doesn’t play a major part in their lives, come from interfaith marriages, or have spiritual beliefs that a specific religion doesn’t fully match. There are, however, certain areas in life (i.e. births, marriages, and deaths) that are so intrinsically linked with religious traditions that it is hard to separate traditional religions from the associated ceremonies.
Strides have been made to create non-religious and alternative weddings and funerals to fit the beliefs of the individual(s) but alternatives to christenings have not made such a big impact.
Many parents want to celebrate their child’s birth via a ceremony. Whether you’re personally not religious or you want to give your child the opportunity to decide their faith (or lack thereof) when they are old enough, a non-religious or spiritual naming ceremony will provide you with the chance to welcome your child into the world without a traditional religious ceremony, like a christening or baptism.
In some ways, it is good for parents that christening alternatives do not have such a long history because they can truly rewrite the rule book! What happens at a naming ceremony is a personal choice that is different for each family but it generally includes readings from various family members, vows to protect the child, and gifts.
If you’re considering a naming ceremony for your child, here are just a few things that you’ll want to think about:
Choosing the venue for ceremony
As naming ceremonies are not official services, you have an incredible amount of options for its location: village halls, your garden, a local farm, the library, a park. Basically, as long as you can get permission from the owner, you can hold your naming ceremony there. Let your imagination run wild.
Choosing the readings that will help to welcome your child into the world is one of the most exciting decisions you’ll make about your child’s naming ceremony, as it’s one of the most personal aspects.
You may choose a favourite childhood book like Dr Seuss’s “Oh, the places you’ll go” or a poem that represents how you feel about your child, or even an explanation of why you choose the name.
If your child has older siblings, you may ask them to read something as a way of welcoming their younger brother or sister.
If a family member is particularly devout, you might be okay with having them read a religious text at the ceremony but it’s entirely up to you.
While you may not want someone to guide your child in religious matters, you may well wish to appoint an adult whom you trust to advise them in other ways. At the naming ceremony, your chosen adult will be asked to make a vow to protect the child and to help raise them to be a good person.
You may choose to have your child’s guardians- the people who will care for your children if something were to happen to you- as their guide parents/ supporting adults. Given the cultural norms of godparents, you may stick with the name but acknowledge any differences to the religious connotations that are important for your own beliefs.
Finding a Minister with an alternative approach
If you want to acknowledge certain spiritual beliefs and/or celebrate your child’s birth in a unique and memorable way, then an interfaith minister can contribute to the ceremony without needing to draw on religious traditions that you feel uncomfortable with.
To learn more about naming ceremonies, or find an interfaith celebrant in the UK, visit Alternative Ceremony, who provide secular and spiritual alternatives to christenings, weddings, and funerals regardless of your religion (or lack thereof).