Monday, December 03, 2007

Godparenting and the church family

Today is the first anniversary of my godson's baptism. According to Stanley Hauerwas, godparenting is a formalisation of what ought to be true throughout the church: that raising children is the responsibility of the entire community. The congregation is the child's extended family, and rightly helps shoulder the privilege and burden of guidance, protection, love, rebuke and provision. However, we might, with growing awareness of the prevalence of abuse, be hesitant to affirm this. Yet while protecting the vulnerable ought to be given particular attention, I don't think restricting their care to immediate family is the solution. We need to strengthen the bonds of love and trust, not withdraw from them. This common task must include unmarried people, the infertile and all those without children, both for the sake of the children and for their own sake. There are to be no members of God's family not amply supplied with mothers, brothers, sisters - and children (Mark 10.30). Of course, not every individual will have an equal role in care, and the natural parents will usually take the lion's share. But children, like the rest of us, belong to the whole family. We have ownership of neither our own lives nor those of our children. We are baptised into Christ, and so into one another.
Speaking of that baptism a year ago, I noted at the time that my (lack of) voice was suited to becoming a godfather, the cause of which I discovered the next day. I saw my speech pathologist again today and she said I am her best case of (significant) recovery from vocal chord palsy.


Bruce Yabsley said...

We need to strengthen the bonds of love and trust, not withdraw from them.

Amen. As well as thoroughly enjoying the privilege of being a godfather, I can't help thinking that as one of those traditionally-Christian things that still has some traction in the community --- and not just through films about murderous Sicilian anti-heroes --- godparenting is something we should cleave to.

I just passed the four-year anniversary of my godson's baptism a few days ago. It must be the time of year.

Anonymous said...

Hi Byron. I just started a discussion centered around Godparenting at Syd And forums after I read this post. My wife and I chose not to name Godparents just yet because we thought the biblical mandate was for us to raise the children in the Lord, but your post has got me thinking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Byron, very helpful—especially as godfather of your niece!