Church offers combined wedding and baptism

Author: By Martha Linden, Press Association

The Church said it had devised new service guidelines allowing couples to
combine the marriage ceremony with either thanksgiving for the gift of a
child or with baptism for children.

The move comes as the latest figures on births and marriages show that around
44 per cent of children are born to unmarried mothers.

Statistics released earlier this year by the Office for National Statistics
also showed the number of young women having children outstripped the number
getting married for the first time.

The Church of England’s own research in Bradford and Buckinghamshire has found
one in five couples who come to church for a wedding already have children
either together or from a previous relationship.

The move to introduce the new service guidelines comes as the Church attempts
to encourage more couples to tie the knot in church.

Last year it implemented changes making it easier for couples to marry in the
church of their choice.

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, chairman of the Church’s
liturgical commission, which prepares forms of service, said: “Baptism
normally is celebrated in a Sunday act of worship – but patterns of
relationship and marriage within society are presenting new opportunities
for the Church.

“We are therefore offering guidance on how thanksgiving for the gift of a
child, or indeed baptism, might be incorporated within a marriage service so
that the church can respond pastorally to our changing world if a priest
feels it would be advisable to offer this option.”

The Reverend Tim Sledge, Vicar of Romsey in the Diocese of Winchester, said he
has been asked to “merge” wedding and baptism services several times.

He said: “It has been lovely to give couples this flexibility to enjoy an
extra special celebration for the whole family.

“Now the guidelines are available online, the Church can ‘say yes’ and offer
an even warmer wedding welcome to couples with children.”

A Church of England spokesman said the move did not mean Church teaching had
changed.

He said: “The Church of England believes that the best place for sex is within
marriage, and marriage is best for bringing up children. That hasn’t changed.

“This is a response to the demand that’s on us as the Church to meet people
who come to us for this key event in their lives.

“Not standing in judgment on their past, but welcoming them and pointing to a
fresh future.”

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