The Difference Between a Christening and a Dedication

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The difference between a baptism and dedication can be confusing, even for those of the Christian faith. The ceremony performed will depend on the church the family attends. Whether the family opts for a christening or dedication, the ceremony is an important event in the family. It’s a way for everyone involved in the child’s life to welcome him into the church community and reinforce the family’s commitment to raising their child according to the Christian teachings.

1 A Baptism Ceremony

A baptism is a Christian ceremony that is performed by nearly every denomination of the Christian faith. Baptism is performed with water. Water baptism first began as an act of washing all or part of the body to purify it, or to wash away all of the individual’s sins and transgressions. Today, this water baptism ceremony is simply a proclamation of one’s faith and dedication to Jesus Christ and the Christian Church. Some churches hold infant baptism, while others, including Baptist and most non-denominational churches, hold infant dedication ceremonies instead.

2 A Dedication Ceremony

A dedication is a Christian ceremony in which the parents of the infant dedicate themselves in front of the church to raise their child as a Christian. The infant is then dedicated to God and welcomed into the church community. Unlike a baptism, this ceremony does not use water. A dedication is performed in a Baptist or non-denominational church. These churches believe that baptism should only be undertaken by someone who is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ and is able to make the educated, adult choice to become baptized. This adult ceremony is called a “Believer’s Baptism” and is only performed once the individual is old enough to make a conscious decision to be a believer in Christ. These churches believe that an infant cannot make that choice, and therefore perform a dedication ceremony for the child instead.

3 The Role of Water

Water plays a key role in the baptism ceremony. While some ceremonies baptize through complete submersion in water, others perform a partial submersion ceremony and still others do a “sprinkling” of water over the head. The Believer’s Baptism, performed by the Baptist church and non-denominational churches, is often done through total submersion, while infant baptism is usually done through a partial submersion or a “sprinkling” of water.

4 Outfits for Children

Baptism and dedication outfits are usually white, to symbolize purity and innocence. Regardless of gender, the infant is traditionally dressed in a gown or christening dress. These gowns can be made from cotton, linen or bridal-quality satin, and some more expensive gowns may contain embroidery. After the ceremony is performed, the infant may be changed into something more practical and comfortable.

Lisa Evans is a freelance writer from Toronto, Canada. She began writing in 2004 and her work has previously been published in "Canadian Immigrant," the "Globe and Mail" and "Scene Magazine." Evans holds a master's degree in political science.