About the best job in the world

merryn baptism2I am blessed and honored to have nine godchildren (that’s me with one of them and her mum). Oh how I love them, and I take my vows very seriously. As a Lutheran, being a baptismal sponsor means I am to pray for them daily, and assist with and ensure their catechesis. I am closer to some than others, but they all are the subject of my prayers. Having these godchildren is a huge part of my life. As such, I was so pleased to see a religion reporter write about being a godparent.

Mark Pinsky, of the Orlando Sentinel, uses Reynolds Price’s new book Letter to a Godchild as a hook to explore the views of local parents and godparents:

Godparenting has its roots in the early church, when adults being baptized had a sponsor who guaranteed their good character, according to Elaine Ramshaw, author of The Godparent Book and numerous articles on the subject. Children were first sponsored by their parents, but about the sixth century, nonparents replaced parents as sponsors, although it is not clear why this shift occurred.

Today, the honor of godparent still is usually bestowed during a baptism, although for non-Christians it can be an informal arrangement.

The limitations of the article are evident in that last paragraph. Being a Christian godparent is very different from being a special adult friend who is called a godparent — but Pinsky throws both groups together. Still, he does a good job of showing how it works in the Christian faith:

Michael and Leanne Brunton had several concerns when looking for prospective godparents. They wanted a local family, not too old, who could take care of their sons if anything happened to them. But they also wanted a couple who share their strong Southern Baptist beliefs.

“We looked for somebody who would raise them in the same faith as my husband and I,” says Leanne, 32.

Their choices were Teri and Emmett Hummel, who they knew from First Baptist Church of Orlando.

“They are a very strong Christian couple, a very strong, godly couple,” Leanne says.

Of course, at this point I’m thinking there is a further distinction that would be interesting to explore: the difference between godparents who are present (or asked to be present) at an infant’s baptism and those who are chosen by people who don’t baptize infants. When do the parents ask people to be godparents if it’s not related to baptism? If the Baptist parents do wait until their children are baptized at an older age, how does that work? I’m full of questions and wish that Pinsky had the time or space to look into this. I demand a follow-up!

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  • Matt

    Yeah! I’m with you. I demand a follow-up, too.

  • thomasina

    Sometimes I’ve heard celebrities referred to as “godparents” to other celebrities’ children, and in some cases, religion of any sort does not appear to play much role in these people’s lives, nor do they seem to feel bound by the religion-based cultural traditions that many non-famous non-religious types do. I’d wondered if it’s just an honorary thing, just as a marriage needs only two witnesses for validity, but many couples have an array of bridesmaids and ushers. Though without a ceremony of some kind I’m not sure how it’s anything but a total abstraction.


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