Christenings and coronavirus

Now that christenings are possible again, you can begin to make plans. This page explains how christenings will still be special even though they’ll be a little different.

If you had planned to have your child baptised at a christening in the spring or summer of this year, you will have had to postpone this special day. Now that christenings are possible again, you can contact a church and begin to make plans. These are some of the questions you might have.

Can we have a christening?

Yes, the Government has given permission for christenings to go ahead now, providing hygiene and social distancing guidelines are observed. The vicar will know all about this and will do everything they can to make it a special and safe service for all the family. Do get in touch with your vicar if you haven’t already, and they’d be delighted to talk everything through.

What should we do if the church where we were hoping to have the christening isn’t reopening? Will the vicar suggest a different church? 

Your vicar may suggest another church. If it’s a church that has a different vicar, you’ll need to contact them to see what is possible there.

Will the church be hygienically clean?

Church staff and volunteers are working very hard to ensure church buildings are clean and safe for everyone. Social distancing measures will be observed, so listen to the vicar’s advice about what needs to happen on the day. As well as being specially cleaned, hand sanitiser will be freely available in the church to all who come in, and when they leave.

How many people can I invite to the service?

The child, their parents and three godparents are required to be present at a christening. If the christening is to happen in the church’s usual advertised public service, (which anyone can attend), you’ll need to talk to the vicar about the maximum numbers of any additional people you’d like to invite. The maximum number will vary between churches depending on its size and the extent to which cleaning can be maintained at that church.

The only people who can be excluded from the maximum are those working at the ceremony, which could be people like the vicar and a verger. Check with your vicar in advance, who will help you work out the numbers.

However many can attend, it’s important that everyone who isn’t in the same household or support bubble continues to physically distance from each other at all times.

Does the christening have to be in the main church service or can we have it separately? 

Opening the church on an additional day to the usual Sunday service may require additional cleaning before and afterwards. There will be some churches which can manage this, but others who can’t at the moment, so ask your vicar and see what they say.

Will there be music at the service?

Music can be played during usual Sunday worship services and at ceremonies, but singing and having musicians who play wind/brass instruments are to be avoided, because (similarly to coughing) these activities are thought to carry additional risk of viral infection through airborne droplets. Talk to the vicar about music and they’ll be pleased to advise.

Will someone need to visit us at home before the service?

The purpose of a meeting before the service would be to help you all prepare for the christening and the promises that are going to be made, as well as talking you through what happens at the ceremony. During this time when reduced contact is preferable where possible, your vicar may suggest meeting online or outdoors. An online meeting may make it it easier for the godparents to join you too.  If you did decide to meet in your home for some reason, hygiene and social distancing guidelines will always be followed by the vicar.

Will the vicar have to come into contact with my child to do the christening?

No. While social distancing measures are in place, the parents will hold the child over the font (or if the child is older, they will stand with their head just over the font) and the vicar will baptise the child with water using a shell or another kind of scoop. Baptism can also be done by wiping water on the child’s forehead and this could be done with a small clean cloth dipped in the holy water, or a cotton wool ball dampened with the holy water.

There is also a point during the service when the vicar anoints the child’s forehead by applying a touch of oil in the shape of a cross. They can do this using a clean cotton bud or something similar.

What can we do if our child’s Godparents aren’t able to attend because they live abroad or are shielding, or even suddenly have to go into isolation? Can they join in via Skype, Zoom or Facetime?

They can certainly join in the service via video link and make the promises, but two godparents must be physically present at the service.

What happens if anyone in the family falls ill with coronavirus or is ‘tracked and traced’ in the days leading up to the christening?

If the person is from a different household or social bubble to the child, their parents, and all the godparents who will be present, the person must not attend the christening, (which can still go ahead).

If the person is in the same household or social bubble as the child, parents, or the godparents who will be present, the christening must not go ahead and will need to be postponed so that all those involved can recover or self-isolate. The vicar will understand this and will do all they can to help you find another suitable date.

Will everyone have to wear face masks?

At present, face masks are required for everyone in church, except those exempt for medical reasons and children under 11. The vicar also does not have to wear a mask at all times, but will do so when physical distancing is more difficult (such as when people gather around the font). Used alongside physical distancing and frequent hand-washing, this will help keep everyone safe as they gather to celebrate your special day.

Can children from a shielding household be christened now? 

Yes, children from shielding households can be christened, but extra care may need to be taken. For the latest information about shielding, visit the Government’s web page which also gives details if the local situation changes.

We’ve had to wait to have our baby christened and we might wait a bit longer, because we are in a shielding household. Can they be christened when they are older? 

Yes. A child or an adult can be baptised at any age.

Further information

  • Choosing godparents

    Godparents are really important. Choosing them is one of the biggest decisions you will make. Whether you are still thinking or have already asked some special friends, discover more about what it means to be or have godparents. Whether you have questions about gifts or want to explore the promises, there are answers to your questions here.

  • The godparents’ promises

    During the Christening godparents say some very important things, making promises that will last a lifetime. It’s helpful to look at these before the day, so read on to find out more about these promises and how to discover more about what they mean.