Children and their needs often bring parents and family to UU congregations. There is an old joke: "If you wander into a church and see children running up and down the aisles during the service, it must be a UU congregation." And it is true, most of our congregations are child centered and extremely tolerant of the young. Perhaps this has as one of its roots our practice of child dedication (rather than baptism).
In this ceremony the congregation undertakes to support both the child and the parents and, by this obligation, binds the community more firmly. It has been my great pleasure over the past several years to be asked to lead several child dedications. This one occurred on 9/13/98 and involved a beautiful little girl, her older brother and her parents.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of child dedications is that, in addition to the main actors, the other members of the family, and their friends, many of who are within a UU congregation for the first time, are frequently deeply moved, whatever their personal religious practice. So, something wonderful happens when a child is dedicated and we should not be shy in calling this a sacrament.
The text is drawn from a variety of sources, some of which I have forgotten. It was previously printed as an insert to the order of service for that Sunday at TPUUF. It has been my practice to alter and refresh the message each time that I use it but I think this version conveys the flavor of them all.
The Dedication of KARLYNNE ROSE GANZER
Life is a gift for which we are grateful. We gather in community to celebrate the glories and mysteries of this great gift.
The ceremony of naming, acceptance and dedication is ancient yet timeless. In all parts of the earth, from before the earliest days of recorded history, parents have brought their children at an early age to a place of worship, to share their joy and commitment to a new life with family, friends and community.
Water has always played a symbolic part in this ceremony, for all life arises from the ancient waters and it is through water that the all life is sustained. This water, a portion of our annual gathering of the waters, is symbolic of the fullness of this child?s life to come.
In tradition, this is the time when the name of the child is first declared to the community, that name by which each of us is acknowledged as a unique and separate person. This flower, a rose with its thorns removed, is symbolic of this child?s individuality and of our care for her which we affirm today.
Here today we take note that we, each and all, have a responsibility for the care and nurturing of every child, here and throughout the world. It is our task, which we gratefully accept, to strive for a world of justice, equity and peace in which this child can grow to her full human potential. And we welcome, with eagerness, the chance to relearn from her the zest and wonder of life, with which all children come into the world, but which we too often lose in our later life.
Charge to the Family:
Lisa and George, you bring your child here to be recognized as a testimony to the universal mystery of human life, repeating itself down through the generations. I know that you will pass on to her, and to her brother Will, your gifts of love, compassion, and moral intuition. I know that you will honor truth, conscience and the search for meaning throughout her life with you. On behalf of the community, I thank you and your son Will for inviting our participation in this day and in the life of your newly born child.
George and Lisa, by what name is this child known?
Lisa/George: Karlynne Rose Ganzer
In the name of life and of love, I confirm to you the name of Karlynne Rose Ganzer.
Will, please give this thornless rose, moist with the waters of the world, to your sister as emblem of our pledge to her and to you and your parents of the warm embrace of our fellowship.
Dedication (Italics read responsively:
(All): For the gift of children, we lift up grateful hearts.
(Cong.): We celebrate your choice to be with us today.
We welcome Karlynne to our community of faith.
(Reader): We will remember that all families need our support and care.
(C.): We will remember that all children need our guidance and companionship, each in his or her quest for fulfillment.
(R): We dedicate ourselves to making Karlynne?s world a place where she can learn trust by trusting others.
(C.): We will, by example, help her to find love, compassion and moral conduct in our midst.
(R): We will learn from her as she experiences the days of her years with us.
(All): And, remembering that those who come after us will inherit the world from us, we dedicate ourselves to the building of a kinder, more just and freer community for all whom we share this precious world with.
Today we have gathered to affirm and dedicate Karlynne Rose Ganzer. We have welcomed her to our community and freely undertaken to support her, her brother Will and her parents, Lisa and George, in their life among us. May we also dedicate ourselves this day. May the occasion work its magic within each of us, that we may mold our lives more fully in accordance with the beauty, truth, goodness and love which we wish for the life of Karlynne.