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Title: Birthright or misconception? : an investigation of the pastoral care of parents in relation to baptismal enquiries in the Church of England
Author: Hill, Gillian.
Awarding Body: University of Portsmouth
Current Institution: University of Portsmouth
Date of Award: 2006
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Many studies of religion deem this a 'secular' age and demonstrate an overall decline in regular church attendance; others point to the existence of subgroupings within society which retain religious belief without participation in formal Church structures. Few studies, if any, have examined why baptism retains its importance in the lives of many young families in this country; those that have tend to dismiss the desire as a manifestation of 'Folk Religion' or an excuse for a celebration. Some clergy interviewed for this study believe that pressure from previous generations is largely responsible. Through questionnaires, interviews and library-based research the research challenges this view, analysing the beliefs of parents and their reasons for requesting baptism. These are compared to other studies looking at religious belief in the locality and country-wide, concluding that those requesting baptism come into a previously unidentified category of church affiliation. Within the Church of England there is diversity of opinion amongst clergy regarding the nature and meaning of baptism and its application within the local community. A survey of clergy in the author's Diocese is utilised to compare and contrast differing perspectives of the rite of baptism. In-depth interviews conclude that some clergy attitudes towards young parents are based upon false premises which subsequently influence the quality of pastoral care. Most parents surveyed have some kind of Christian belief and fall into the category of 'occasional attender,' possessing deep emotional attachment to the Church as Institution and as Place, the focus of major family events such as weddings and funerals. In an age of SUbjective values, some parents view the Church as the last bastion of moral and ethical absolutes and desire its guidance for their children. Many parents believe it better to be 'spiritual' rather than 'religious' equating the latter with rigidity and formality and this further erodes the practice of regular church attendance. Women emerge as vital for the transmission of religious belief to the next generation, and using the insights of feminist theologians, the study investigates misogynistic attitudes towards women in the Church and whether a 'spiritual hysterectomy' has taken place historically and liturgically, which effectively removes women from the symbolism of new birth at the heart of baptism. The Church has also distanced worship from the household, a traditionally feminine sphere of activity, forcing parents to express religious observance only in church buildings which can be viewed as androcentric foci of power and control. The study concludes that, not only are women vital to the future of the Church, but with baptism still providing symbolic representation of community in particular areas, their contribution to social cohesion has been grossly underestima ted. Finally the Thesis postulates how symbolic representation at the heart of baptism might be re-evaluated thereby connecting the experience of young parents with the Christian faith. The study raises questions regarding pastoral practice, demonstrating that the pool of parents presenting children for baptism represents the future of the Church of England; how they are treated has far reaching implications for its on-going existence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available