Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's A Godparent

OK, let me start by noting that the following post is simply my opinion.  If you don't like what I have to say, please take the snark elsewhere.  I make a big point to omit major mentions of religion and politics (which do actually both play a BIG role in my life outside of Blogville) on here to keep the drama to a minimum.  You may certainly disagree.  But please do so politely.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way for any sillies who troll the internet, let's get started!

One of my biggest joys in life is proclaiming my Godparent status!  Truly, it brings me overwhelming happiness and means more to me than words might ever express.  I do not take my role lightly.  For me, it is a tremendous honor.  And to have this blessing twice, well, that just brings me to tears.  I never expected anyone to chose me to Godparent their child.  Ever.  But twice?  My cup runneth over!

So given my love of my Godparent gig, you might notice that I mention it a good bit around here.  I was also raised with a Godfamily.  My dad is the Godfather to my childhood bestie, Florida's, middle sister, Emily.  Follow that?  Dad is Emily's Godfather.  Em is truly one of my three sisters.  So Em is my Godsister.  Now, I doubt any faith recognizes that term.  But we do.  Me and Em and our families.  Always have.  And still to this day think we are cool cats because of it.  My point is that Godfamilies do actually play a pretty big role in my everyday life.  Which is probably odd.  There's little about me that isn't odd though, so whatever.

Every time I mention it on here, I get comments and questions.  Always very nice, but very curious.  So I thought I would take a moment to explain my stand on Godparents.  Y'all still with me?

As far as I am aware, it's a Christian thing.  Catholics, Episcopalians, and Protestants, for the most part.  It happens simultaneously with a baptism.  Most with babies, though one can certainly be baptized at any time they come to accept a faith.

Some religions, such as Southern Baptist, have a baptism when a person is older.  I believe Mormons do too.  At a time when the person can make the decision themselves to accept a faith as their own.  In the three branches noted above, there is a baptism for a baby and then when a child is around junior high age, they can chose to be confirmed, accepting the faith as their own.

So I know my Southern Baptist friends will say that is silly, to have two separate sacraments.  But it's my understanding that many faiths have things such as baby namings and baby dedications.  Where the parents announce to the world that they will raise their child in this chosen faith.  That's pretty much the same thing as a Presbyterian baptism.  It's when the parent's promise to raise the child in this chosen faith  And the Godparents (typically one Godmother and one Godfather) vow to assure this happens.  They sort of sponsor the child's walk in discovering the chosen faith until they are of an age to chose it as their own.  At which point they are Confirmed in the faith.

Many still confuse Godparents with guardians.  As in, if I die, you will raise my child.  And perhaps they are the same people named in your will.  But one really has nothing to do with the other.  Should something tragic happen to you, the person you name in your will to raise your child not based on Godparent status.  Though presumably, you would want them in your child's life forever as a role model at the very least.

Different faiths take different approaches to choosing Godparents.  I do know that Catholics are required to chose at least one Godparent who shares their Catholic faith.  Presbyterians are way more loosy goosy about it all.  It makes sense to pick people who share similar values though as this has to do with the religion you have decided is going to play a life-long role in raising your child.  Often, Godparents are best friends or even relatives of the parents.  I mean, if your child is going to hear about God, you want someone who will share your version (or something similar) and not one of the other 3000 some odd versions.

So even though your church might not have something titled "Godparent", I am willing to bet you do in fact have something similar that exists. It is really more of a title than anything for most people. I don't think many take things like this with my level of insanity- ha. For me, it's a public proclamation of my love for my J and E. A promise that I will send them "religious literature" in the form of pop up books about Noah and Jesus and Jonah and Moses. And tell them how awesome Jesus was for loving everyone without prejudice and going against the grain to do what he knew was right and feeding the hungry and helping the poor and healing the sick and forgiving and trusting and so many other remarkably cool things. I'm going to need to find some more pop up books...

I am far from any religious expert.  This is just my simple explanation on Godparenting.  Which is really nothing more than publicly adding more love into your child's life by way of your church, a few best friends and afterwards, cake and mimosas.

Look, many varieties of Christians and even non-Christians have similar roles.  Fancy that.


Wendy said...

Interesting post. I think each of the Protest denominations may do things slightly differently. I was baptized as a Methodist, and I don't have Godparents. The whole Church agrees to help raise a child in the faith, rather than have two specific people.

Susan R said...

Thank you my dear. Very well understood and taken.

amanda said...

This is an interesting post. I'm guessing you are Presbyterian. Do you mind me asking which denomination? (As in PC(USA), EPC, PCA?) The largest of these groups is PC(USA), and, in fact, I am a PC(USA) minister. I'm just curious because many PC(USA) churches actually don't have godparents. Church Elders would stand up with the parents during baptism, in some churches you may choose the elders-some do require that they be elders in that particular congregation, but some just require that they be Presbyterian Elders. Other churches, will choose an Elder for you. Part of the service also involves the congregation making vows to do the very things you mentioned godparents doing, so in many cases you would have invited special people to be there to make those promises too-even if they weren't part of the congregation. As a minister, it makes complete sense, the child is being welcomed into a community of faith, so it's often a service with other children and families and the entire community is promising to guide that child in their faith, so any church leader will suffice to represent the church leadership also making this promise. As a parent, it's kind of a bummer, honestly. The way you describe is certainly more personal and a bit more special. But, I think it's still something that can happen ceremoniously even if it doesn't happen officially.

I think a lot of denominations that don't believe in infant baptism don't get it, and certainly confirmation confuses things. But, I think it's beautiful. In infant Baptism, children receive an outward visible sign of inward grace-the gift that God gives all of us freely without meeting any obligation. God reaches out and welcomes us and promises to love and care for us, before we can even understand or accept such a gift. What a promise! In confirmation, which in our denomination is not a sacrament-simply because the only two sacraments are those which Christ performed himself (Baptism and Communion), but still a special moment. The church continues to fulfill its baptismal vow by teaching the child the history and relevance and ways of hte church and then invites him/her to then choose to join that particular church. Choosing not to do so, doesn't mean that child isn't choosing to be Christian or anything, but just that they don't feel like it's the right time or congregation for them.

I hope that didn't feel like a lecture. I was just curious since you said you were Presbyterian. I love the idea of Godparents the way you talk about them. It's so special for children to have people in their lives who care so much for them and only want the best for them. One of my closest friends sort of fills that roll for Monroe, but I love the idea of it being official and the whole family coming together. Your godchildren are lucky to have you. It's obvious you love them so much!


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