The Church of England is considering offering “champagne” christenings based on wedding receptions to attract people who rarely attend their local parish.
A new style of service – staged in churches decked out with balloons while guests sit at tables laid out for a baptism banquet – is among options being looked at by officials as part of a drive to make people feel more welcome.
The idea is one of the early results of a major “market research” project, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and York, examining how the Church could redesign its christening services for the 21st Century.
Official figures show that the number of baptisms conducted in the Church of England is on the rise even though weekly congregations have been falling.
Rev Dr Sandra Millar, who runs the Church’s ongoing “Christenings Project”, said it was striking how many young parents still want to have their children baptised despite having little or no connection to the church themselves.
Vicars have also noticed that some unmarried couples appeared to view the christening almost as their answer to having a wedding, an opportunity to invite family and friends for a public ceremony followed by a party.