Ripon Cathedral declared July 7 to be its first Godparent Sunday with the morning service at 10.30, both cementing and celebrating the relationship between godparents and godchildren.
“It tends to be rarely talked about but the relationship between godparents and godchildren can be one of the most important in a child’s life,” said the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson DL. “We want to recognise that a godparent’s care can reflect God’s love for us. The service provides an opportunity for both godparents and godchildren to either renew or deepen that relationship.”
An outstanding example of that relationship is provided by 17-year-old Rachael Jefferies and her godmother, Margaret Ford, aged 82, who used to be the secretary to the Archbishop of Uganda, Janani Luwum. He was shot in 1977 by General Idi Amin and is considered a martyr by the Church of England.
Rachael said: “Margaret is a companion, primarily a friend I can have conversations with about faith and aspects of it that I find difficult. I like her open-mindedness, her willingness to embrace new things. She has experienced different cultures other than our own with integrity. She is not just an observer, she practises what she preaches.
“I enjoy her stories about exploits in Uganda, Sudan and Egypt. I feel lucky to meet the people she made friends with and get a glimpse of her world through them.”
Margaret, who works as a bishop’s visitor at an infant primary school near her home in Lincoln, said: “Rachael is the youngest of my seven godchildren and, having never married, I consider them to be virtual grandchildren. As a godparent, I find you are in a unique position to see and say things as you are on the edge of the family but also almost part of the family.
“I enjoy Rachael’s company and appreciate the things she has done to help me. For example, she wrote a prayer of blessing when she was eight or nine for some people in Sudan. Each line began with an initial letter from the word Sudan…
‘Sow seeds of hope;
Unique brothers and sisters share our world;
Allow them to be free;
Nurture with love.’ I thought it was brilliant,” said Margaret.
Godparents and godchildren recited prayers for each other at the service; all were welcomed with tin badges saying either ‘Praying Godparent’ or ‘Blessed Godchild.’ Afterwards everyone enjoyed a piece of christening-type cake to mark the occasion.