Baptism/Child Dedication in Unitarian Universalism
Rather than holding Christian-style baptisms or christenings, most Unitarian Universalist congregations have child dedication ceremonies for infants and children.
Child dedication ceremonies are usually crafted by the parents, the congregation's minister, and religious educator working closely together. Many will include the following elements:
- A blessing for the new life of the child
- An expression of the parent or parents’ hopes for the child
- A promise by the congregation to support and nurture the child
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At Community UU
Twice a year Meredith and Perry lead the congregation in child dedications during a Sunday service. It takes 5 - 7 minutes, depending on how many children or youth are being dedicated. It goes something like this:
MEREDITH: The world’s faith traditions bring children into religious community in various ways: baptism, christening, bris, namakarana, various forms of child naming, blessing, initiating, and dedicating. Whatever the form, parents have brought their young children into the places of worship from time immemorial: to express their joy and their awe at the gift of new life, and their deep sense of responsibility.
PERRY: For us, the dedication is always double. The child is dedicated to all that is good and true – to the ground of being itself, and the ultimate context of meaning. And the congregation hereby becomes dedicated to the child. We delight in what our children are now, while we look forward to what they -- and we -- will become, knowing that their spiritual growth depends in no small part on us, and that ours depends on them. Parents, family, friends along with every member of this congregation share responsibility for the nurturing of every child here. It is our task to teach them the way of beauty and love, peace and justice -- and to learn from them zest and wonder of life.
Meredith then calls the names of the parents/guardians who are bringing children to be dedicated and invites them to come up on the chancel. He then asks the parents to announce to the congregation the name(s) of their child(ren) being dedicated. Perry then addresses the child(ren) by name and tells them: you are a part of this community that loves you.
For each child, Meredith dips a rose into the water from the congregation's water communion.
MEREDITH: With this water from our annual water communion, representing this diverse community flowing together, and symbolizing the oneness from which all life springs, and this rose, the symbol of life’s blooming possibilities for you, I touch you now on your brow, on your lips, and on your hands, to dedicate your thought and your speech, and your action to all in life that is good and true and beautiful. Hands the rose to the child or parent. Repeat for each child.
PERRY: If you are a relative, or godparent of a child being dedicated, or a visiting family friend, will you please rise. If you are proud to know these young ones, if you look forward to introducing them to the world and helping them become who they will be, please say, “We will.”
If applicable [names of siblings]: you have sisters and brothers being dedicated today. If you promise to help them have a good time here, please say, “We will.”
Will all the children and youth of the congregation rise? If you are happy to get to know these friends, and if you will be kind to them, please say, “We will.”
Every member undertakes the sacred and joyful obligation to know, to nurture, to teach, and to help these children. Will all members now rise and pledge with me the words of the Congregational Dedication printed in your Order of Service:
May you grow to a life of joy.
May you grow to love other people.
May you grow to be courageous to challenge evil.
May you speak the truth you know,
And never cease from seeking to know more.
In everyone you meet,
May you recognize kinship and accept difference.
May you endow those who know you with faith and hope.
May you grow to be strong and gentle.
May you lessen a bit our human sorrows.
And to help to realize our hopes for you,
To guide you and comfort you,
To teach you and learn from you,
We, your religious community, dedicate ourselves.
MEREDITH: We pray that we shall be worthy guardians of these young lives, that the community we build will be one in which they may grow – and grow old – surrounded by beauty, embraced by love, and cradled in the arms of peace.