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Vicar puts an end to family tradition
10:16am Friday 23rd March 2012 in News
A mother says she has been left angry and upset after a vicar refused to christen her baby daughter in the village church where she herself had been baptised and married.
Sarah Burbridge has family connections with Braishfield going back three generations and her first daughter, Lilly, was christened in its parish church of All Saints two years ago.
Naturally, she wished to continue the family tradition and have her second child, Faye, christened at All Saints, too, but the new vicar, Rev Steve Pittis thought otherwise.
Sarah said: “The vicar told me ‘Christening is about welcoming a baby into a local church family’ and as we lived in Southampton, the village church would not be able to support the child.
“I thought christening was about welcoming a child to the Church as whole, not one particular parish,” said Sarah.
The 26-year-old mum, who works as a primary school teacher, was christened and married at All Saints by the then vicar, Bruce Kington.
“Rev Kington also christened Lilly, even though we didn’t live in the village. He said he was pleased to do it and the christening was part of the Easter Sunday service,” said Sarah.
When Sarah told Mr Pittis this, she claims he then proceeded to ask whether she and her husband had kept up the vows they made at Lilly’s christening.
“I got so angry I had to hang up on him,” said Sarah. “I don’t want him to christen our daughter now.”
Sarah’s family has strong links with All Saints – her grandparents and aunt were married there. Her father was christened there, as were her brother and two sisters.
“Faye will have to be christened elsewhere and we won’t have that family connection, which is a shame,” said Sarah.
When approached by the Advertiser, Mr Pittis said he was not prepared to discuss specific cases of pastoral care.
He said babies from outside the village could be baptised at the church if there was a family link within the parish.
Asked if he had refused to christen baby Faye, Mr Pittis replied: “I have not refused any application for baptism at this church since I have been here.”
Mr Pittis said he followed Church of England guidelines on the matter.
The Church of England website has a section in christening with frequently asked questions, one of which is: “I’m not a regular churchgoer. Can I still have my child baptised?
Answer: “Yes. The Church believes that God’s love is available to all, regardless of their background.” Sarah Burbridge said she was “absolutely baffled” by the vicar’s statement.
“He refused us outright,” she told the Advertiser.
Sarah said she was angry that she had not been able to speak with Mr Pittis face to face.
“He said I was asking for the christening purely on my terms.”
“If he had wanted us to attend services at All Saints, we would have, this was so important to us. But he didn’t give us a chance to talk about our connections with the church.”