1. Will you perform a baptism or a bris?

No. Both of these are religious ceremonies that happen within the context of their religious traditions. In almost all mainstream Christian traditions, baptisms are a communal acceptance of responsibility to raise this new baby in Christian values and Christian community. Many churches will not baptize babies if their parents are not members of their church for this reason. In earlier times, baptism was understood as an antidote to original sin and an assurance that the baby would be accepted into heaven in times of high infant mortality. These days almost everyone understands what a precious gift these innocent babies are, that emphasis for baptism has swept out of favor. The work I do is ecumenical or secular in nature.

A bris is a ritual act performed by a specially trained religious person. Circumcision is considered a sign of membership in the tribe of Israel for men. Although there are people who perform circumcisions for men and boys past puberty, it is easiest to do it when the child is an infant. If Judaism is a part of your tradition, this is something you may want to explore for your child earlier rather than later!

2. Water is such a great symbol. Even though I don't want a baptism, is there any way to incorporate it into a ceremony?

Water is a wonderful symbol. There are many traditions that involve the use of water that do not include the idea of purification for babies. There are blessings with water (and with oil) that are quite beautiful. Sometimes water can stand for the source of life and celebrates the water from which the baby has come. Often I have used water as a vehicle for the assembled to cleanse themselves before they handle new life. Don't be afraid to experiment with symbols that are important to you.

3. Why do people have Godparents?

Some traditions routinely have Godparents and in others they go in and out of fashion. There are many reasons to have Godparents, or Spirit Guardians. They are designated by the parents as special people in the child's life, people who will help the child think about the spiritual aspects of the world they will grow up in. Sometimes they are the people who are to become guardians to the child should something happen to the parents. Sometimes they simply agree to pay special attention to this child and make sure that the child does not get overlooked in the family. In all cases they are to offer another model of successful adulthood for the child to observe, even emulate.

But Godparents are not a necessity -- and you don't need to be a Godparent to play a special role in a child's life. At different times in a child's life, different adults may take on the role of guide. You may wish to formalize that in a ritual, or you may just want to celebrate whatever comes to pass!

4. What is the role of the community in a baby's life?

The roles of the community will be as varied as the number of people in it, but there are several important roles with which I charge my communities. The first is to support the parents as they struggle to raise and nurture their child or children.

The second is to offer the child the support he or she needs to prosper in the world. Parents are not the only guides and playmates a child will have. Each of us has something wonderful to teach this new baby and, if we have been invited to the blessing, we have been invited to participate in this baby's life.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are charged with the responsibility of making the world safe and secure for all children. If children are truly a value in our lives, we must look to good education systems and provide safety and support for all children and all families. Each child in our midst is a gift of laughter and an imperative for peace. The gift of new life can totally transform a community. It is up to us to give a child the chance to work their magic in our lives and to take our responsibilities toward this special baby and toward all babies seriously.