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Introduction to child dedications

Many Unitarian Universalist churches incorporate child dedication ceremonies into the main worship service. Ideally, the child dedication will take place at a time when the children of the church can witness it (i.e., before they go to Sunday school). The first "story" below is an introduction to child dedications, aimed at children who will remain in the worship service, to be said before the child dedication itself begins.

In other Unitarian Universalist churches, the child dedication cannot take place when the children of the church can witness it. The second "story" below describes a child dedication that is about to take place (or has already taken place), aimed at children who will not be present during the actual dedication.

Introduction to a child dedication

This morning, we're going to have a child dedication during the worship service. Before we begin the child dedication, let me tell the children who are here exactly what a child dedication is.

As you may know, Unitarian Universalism grew out of Christianity (in fact, some Unitarian Universalists still call themselves Christians). For hundreds of years, Christian babies have been welcomed into the world in a religious ritual called "baptism," where the baby was dunked into a basin of water; the idea being that every baby was born with what's called "original sin," and you have to wash it off.

Fifty years ago, most Unitarian Universalist churches didn't do baptism any more, and instead they wlecomed babies in a "christening" ceremony. A "christening" had a different meaning than the old Christian ritual of baptism. It meant that the child would be brought up according to the teachings of Jesus. They didn't talk about original sin, and the ceremony changed, too: instead of putting the baby all the way into a basin of water, they would sprinkle water on the baby.

These days, most Unitarian Universalists welcome babies with what we call a "child dedication." During a child dedication, the parents formally give the baby his or her name and they agree to raise their child according to the highest and noblest purposes of life. All the rest of us in the church, both gorwn-ups and kids, agree to support the parents as they raise their baby.

Listen and watch carefully, and you will see the child get sprinkled in water, and you will hear the minister say baby's new name, and you will get to agree to help support the baby's parents as they raise their child in this church.

Describing a child dedication

UU Society of Geneva, April 3, 2005

Today is a special day in the life of this church. Today this church is going to have a child dedication ceremony during the worship service, after many of the young people have left for their church school programs.

So what is a child dedication ceremony, anyway? Our Unitarian Universalist child dedication ceremony is our way of welcoming children and babies to our church. We usually do child dedication ceremonies for new babies. We also do child deidcation ceremonies for older children who never had a chance to be dedicated before.

When a family decide to have their child dedicated, they talk to one of the ministers at our church. In our church, we like to dedicate children during the worship service. Usually there are special readings and special music, and then the parents bring the child up to the front of the church. One of the ministers -- today, it will be Lindsay -- leads the actual child dedication ceremony.

In the actual child dedication ceremony, Lindsay first says the whole name of the child, and declares that will be the name by which this child shall be called. Then she takes a little bit of water on her fingertip, and touches the water to the forehead of the child like this [show], because water is a symbol of purity and life. Then she gives a rose to the child, because a rose is a symbol of life and love, and a rose is also a symbol of beauty, goodness, and truth.

Actually, when the child is a baby, we don’t give the rose right to the child, but instead to the baby’s parents. Babies sometimes like to eat roses, and babies have been known to eat an entire rose during a child dedication ceremony. If you give the rose to the parents, then the parents get to decide if they want their baby eating a rose or not.

So that’s what a child dedication ceremony looks like. I’ll bet you are wondering why we have child dedication ceremonies. My friend Mary Ella Holst sayd we have child dedications for three reasons:

First, we dedicate children so we can recognize each child as a unique, special individual. That’s why we say the child’s whole, complete name during the child dedication. By saying your name, we are saying -- You are special, you are the only one like you in the whole world.

Second, we dedicate children because we know the family of the child has made a deep commitment to love and care for their child. It’s not easy to be a parent, and a child dedication ceremony is our way of letting the parents and the rest of the family know that we think they are special, too.

Third, we dedicate children here in our church community to show we all welcome this new child. Not only that, but we also believe that bigger kids should look out for younger kids. If you'’e a big kid, part of your job here at church is to welcome younger kids. And if you’re an adult, a child dedication reminds you that you have a religious responsibility to create a welcoming environment for all babies and children.

Those are three good reasons to have child dedications. I think there’s another reason, because we also dedicate our children to the highest and noblest pruposes in life, and promise to help all children work towards the highest ideals of life.

Now you know what a child dedication is.