Next on Entertainment Tonight: Celebrity sacraments

BeckhamsSo the lavish Sawbridgeworth, England, estate of soccer megastar David Beckham and his wife, Victoria — formerly known as pop tart “Posh Spice” — contains its own private chapel. Who knew?

This is merely one of the too-good-to-be-true details in a recent USA Today story by reporter CÃ(c)sar G. Soriano that could open up an entirely new niche for professionals on the Godbeat. Weddings are old hat for the paparazzi and gossip columnists. Now the super rich and fabulous are hitting a new stage of life — celebrity-party christenings. (Tip of the hat to friend of the blog Roberto Rivera y Carlo for catching this one.)

This may also be a major boon for the Church of England, which needs all the good photo opportunities it can get in these days of global strife over moral theology. After all, Anglican rites give most media stars precisely what they need, which is Catholic visuals with liturgical and doctrinal flexibility that resembles a trip to Starbucks.

Soriano’s report opens with some of the details of the recent “baptism bash” for sons Brooklyn, 5, and Romeo, 2. You want some of the details, now don’t you? Who was there to back the parents in taking their vows?

The pre-Christmas party at the Beckhams’ home in Sawbridgeworth, England, looked more like a Hollywood premiere than a religious ceremony. Pop star Elton John and partner David Furnish, the children’s godfathers, arrived by silver Rolls-Royce. Elizabeth Hurley showed up in an ivory gown with a plunging neckline. (The invitation suggested “modest attire.”)

Three of Victoria Beckham’s former Spice Girls bandmates also turned out: Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell and Melanie Chisholm. Only Melanie Brown (“Scary Spice”) was absent.

The Church of England baptism . . . was followed by a six-course dinner and dance. Reported cost: $900,000. Thursday’s party might be just a rehearsal for what’s to come, because Victoria, 30, is expecting the couple’s third child in March.

It will surprise no one that one of the pioneers of this new trend was (musical cue: “Vogue”) Madonna. Soriano noted that the interfaith mystic/siren held an elaborate baptism, along with beau Guy Ritchie, of baby Rocco in Scotland in December 2000. This was part of a multi-sacrament program in Scotland, since they baptized their baby the day BEFORE their wedding. Oh, Sting and Stella McCartney were witnesses for the baptism. Does anyone remember who stood in as best man and maid of honor?

The USA Today report also notes that Latin singer Marc Anthony and ex-wife Dayanara Torres got together for the Aug. 14 christening of their 1-year-old son, Ryan. It has been an eventful year. Anthony’s new wife, Jennifer Lopez, did not attend the rites.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • rach

    From http://www.IMDB.com Tuesday news, Beckham Christening Authenticity Questioned by Local Church (http://www.imdb.com/news/wenn/2004-12-27#celeb7). There may have been a celebrity bishop too.

  • http://thinkinganglicans.org.uk Simon Sarmiento

    I’m surprised that you have omitted the now widely reported comment from Church of Ireland Bishop Paul Colton, who has denied having any involvement at all in this matter, and was not even in England at the time of the event.

    The question is: who exactly did officiate at this alleged baptism?

  • http://www.andrewchamberlain.net andy chamberlain

    I was amused to read this comment from the BBC website on this subject:

    ‘After Brooklyn’s birth, David remarked: “I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don’t know into what religion yet.” ‘

    Of course, if you use a word like “christening” that rather suggests what religion you want for your child, or maybe it suggests that David hasn’t thought through the implications of the words he uses, and considered use of words relating to faith is pretty vital.

    That said, as a pastor this is my patch, and if I had a soccer free kick competition with David Beckham he’d thrash me completly.

    What’s more interesting is the way in which the Beckhams represent a great number of people who feel the urge for some framework for their lives, for commitment in marrige, for some significant ceremony for their children, for some purpose and guide to live by. The flight from Christianity has left people who are created to engage with God but without confidence in the Christian process of engagement.

    They have the desire but not the tools.

    The challenge for the church is to give people like the Beckhams both the Christian tools for a framework for life, and the confidence to use them.

  • James Kabala

    The Beckhams are losers, to be sure, but I’m suspicious of the claim that the baptism was invalid. I suspect that in Catholic canon law, a baptsism in an unauthorized location would be “illicit but valid” – it shouldn’t have been done, but if the words were said properly, it was a real baptism. Maybe C of E is different, but I don’t know. I assume that all denominations have had baptisms on someone’s deathbed or otherwise in extremis, and they were valid despite not being in church.

  • http://obhouse.blogspot.com Ellyn

    It’s all so funny in a sort of Mad Mag/Onion way. (Which also makes it quite sad.) At least Scary Spice was spared the taint of being involved in this debacle….

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    In response to the ping from my friend Simon Sarmiento, and his earlier question: Neither tmatt nor the story he cited from USA Today said the Bishop of Cork (or any bishop, for that matter) presided at the service. USA Today referred to it as a “Church of England ceremony,” and even with this latest information, that appears accurate.


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