Life events and the Church
The Church of Scotland plays an essential role in providing worship and spiritual guidance for key life events, from child blessings and baptisms to marriage and funerals.
Baptism is one of the two sacraments recognised by the Church of Scotland, the other being the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In the case of infant baptism the Church expects at least one parent or other close family member either to be a member of the Church or willing to become a member. In the baptismal service those appropriate adults profess their own faith and promise to give the child a Christian upbringing. In the case of adult baptism the person himself or herself makes the appropriate promises.
Baptism is normally administered at Sunday worship in front of the congregation. This emphasises the nature of the sacrament as incorporation into the body of Christ and the life of the Church. There is a little more flexibility in the case of genuine emergencies, normally in a hospital situation.
The thanksgiving and blessing of a child
Since 2003, the Church has provided orders for the thanksgiving for, and blessing of, a child. The blessing ceremony takes place at morning worship following the same pattern as that for Baptism, except the wording and promises are different, and no water is used. Nothing is required of the parents in either commitment or belief. Our guide on the blessing of a child includes more information and a suggested order of service for the thanksgiving and blessing of a child.
Ministers of the Church of Scotland are authorised to perform marriages. The Church does not regard marriage as a sacrament and ministers are free to marry people who are not members of the Church of Scotland. However, if neither the bride nor groom is a member of the Church, the first approach should be to minister of the parish in which one or other of them resides. In places where parish boundaries are not obvious, the local presbytery clerk should be able to advise.
In certain circumstances the Church of Scotland permits the re-marriage of divorced people in church. Our guide to marriage includes some frequently asked questions about getting married in the Church of Scotland.
Blessing of a civil marriage
Ministers of the Church of Scotland can also conduct blessing ceremonies for civil marriages (those which were legally conducted by a registrar and not in a church). The couple seeking a blessing on their marriage stand together at the front of the church, and may be attended by friends. Our guide on blessing of a civil marriage includes a suggested sermon and procedure.
Through its parish system and territorial ministry the Church of Scotland seeks to serve all the people of Scotland and not just the membership of the Church. Nobody in the situation of bereavement should hesitate to seek the services of the parish minister, either directly or through the undertaker.
How to arrange one of these services
You need to contact your nearest Church of Scotland minister to arrange one of these services. If you are planning on travelling to Scotland for such an event, more information about the country is available from www.visitscotland.com
There are no fixed charges for these services, but you may be asked to contribute towards things like heating and lighting and the organist's fee. There may also be copyright costs involved if you want to video record the ceremony.
Birth, baptism, marriage and death certificates
If you would like to know how to obtain a copy of archived certificates for researching your family tree, please visit our section on historical records.
These books may also be of interest, and can be purchased online from the Church's publishing house, Saint Andrew Press, at its website www.standrewpress.com.
- By Water and the Spirit - what it means to be baptised. Price £4.99 A commentary on the services of baptism and confirmation for all those, of whatever denomination, who wish to explore baptism and Church membership, especially those who seek baptism for themselves or their children.
- Christian Baptism - for those considering Baptism for themselves or their children. Price £1.50 An outline and explanation of the services in Common Order 1994.
- A Welcome to a Child - four orders for thanksgiving and blessing for parents, those seeking to be baptised, and worship leaders, taken from Common Order 1994. Price £4.99. Many Christian parents seek a rite of reception of their child into the family of the Church which would leave the child free upon reaching maturity to decide for him/herself to seek baptism.
- Christian Marriage - Price £1.50. For couples preparing for marriage, including an outline and explanation of the services in Common Order 1994, together with other practical information.
- The Funeral Services - Price £3.99. The complete funeral section in Common Order 1994, with an introduction for ease of use of ministers.