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Seasons of our lives

There are many seasons in our lives. The church is there to help us celebrate, mourn and remember.

Read time: 5 minutes, 33 seconds

As humans we become very familiar with change in our lives, whether we call it the cycle of life or just ‘the ups and downs’. We know that there are beginnings and there are endings. We are born and we die. In between there are all kinds of events, celebrations and disappointments, times of joy and times of sorrow. Churches and individual Christians will always be there to pray for you at any of these times, but traditionally many churches offer special services and support at these three big moments:

Churches and individual Christians will always be there to pray for you at any of these times, but traditionally many churches offer special services and support at three big moments.

When a child arrives

Children arrive in families in different ways. They may be adopted, fostered, or a blended family might be created. And babies are born.

Churches offer services which might be called different things to help mark this special time, which is usually one of great joy. There might also be worry, fear and a whole range of mixed emotions as well. There are two main types of service:

Blessing (also called thanksgiving)

This is when the family and their friends gather to give thanks to God for the child, for safe delivery and pray for them in their life and home. There might be special adults (sometime called sponsors) who offer special prayers, and gifts, such as a bible, may be given.

Christening (also known as baptism of a child) or Dedication


Baptism is the great sign of Christian commitment and belonging. You can be baptised at any age, but some churches baptise or christen with water in the first few days, weeks or years of a child’s life. At a christening water is poured or wiped over the child's head, and big promises are made by parents and godparents, as a little one is welcomed into the family of God and a lifelong journey of faith begins. This might take place in a regular church service, or be at a special service at a different time of day.

As well as water, a sign of the cross will be made on the child’s forehead. This could be done with holy oil. And the child may be given a lighted candle at the end of the service as a sign that they will always have God’s light with them, and that they carry that light for others.

If a child is baptised, then when they are old enough the church may invite them to be confirmed, which means they repeat the promises that were made on their behalf for themselves. A bishop will pray that they will continue to know God’s presence with them through the Holy Spirit, as they go on in life.

In some churches, parents will choose to pray that their child will follow God faithfully in a service of dedication. This means that they can choose later whether to be baptised.

Continued below...

Christianity Seasons of our lives

A marriage begins

In the Christian tradition marriage is a special kind of promise, known as a covenant. Solemn vows will be made, rings will be blessed and exchanged as sign of the promises made, and the marriage will be blessed. The congregation of family and friends are witnesses. There may also be hymns, music, readings and prayers.

In some countries churches can legally marry people, so there is only one ceremony. In other places it is appropriate and right to be married legally by the state, according to local laws. Then the couple may have a blessing or dedication after that legal marriage, which might include renewing vows, blessing, music and more.

Sometimes couples return after many years, perhaps on special anniversaries, to renew their vows and thank God for being with them in their marriage and family life.

Sometimes couples return after many years, perhaps on special anniversaries, to renew their vows and thank God for being with them in their marriage and family life.

A life ends

Funerals

In cultures all over the world people mark the ending of human life with rites and rituals. For many, this is a really important part of saying goodbye to the person and can even be a transitional moment in the grieving process. That is why denying a family and friends access to some kind of funeral can result in lasting pain and regret. For Christians, the distinctive thing about a funeral is not the specific practice, but the hope that will be proclaimed that death is not the end, because Jesus conquered death and promised eternal life. There is also the promise that God is with us as we grieve.

Bereavement


When someone we know dies, we are bereaved. Churches are one of the places where there will be space to pause and reflect and people to listen to the story and offer help. It doesn’t matter whether the person died recently or long ago, was close to you or an acquaintance, was deeply loved or the relationship was complex – there is no time limit on reflecting. Churches may be able to signpost you to specialist help as well. You can pray, or someone may pray with you or for you that God will comfort you at this time. The great words of Psalm 23 “though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I am with you” are often a particular help.

Remembering


As the years go by, we experience the death of people we know and we want to remember them. Many churches hold special services when those who have died are particularly remembered. These might be held at a particular time in the year when people are sad, such as Christmas, or in a special service around All Souls Day (November 2nd). There may be services with a special focus, such as the loss of baby or child, the ending of pregnancy, when someone has taken their own life, or died a violent death. In all of these services there will be time to reflect and prayers will be said. You may be able to light a candle, and the name of the one you are thinking about may be read aloud.

Churches aim to be there for the people in their community through all seasons of their life, regardless of whether they go to church often or not. Whatever you are going through, whether joyful or sad, your local church will want to be supportive with friendship and prayer.