Tag Archives: Child dedications

Documents pertaining to the origins of the “child dedication” ceremony in Universalism

Universalists have used a number of ceremonies to welcome children. Some early Universalists started out as Baptists, and so were probably wary of infant baptism. Other early Universalists worked on the frontier of Euro-American settlement of North America, and were more flexible about the ceremony they used to welcome children; in fact, some early Universalists also practice adult baptism. Universalist views changed over the years; baptism was less popular in the early 19th C., almost universal in the late 19th C., and waned again in the 20th C. An excellent overview of Universalist views on baptism may be found in “Baptism on the Universalist Frontier,” by Lewis Perry, Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, vol. XXIX, 2003, pp. 3-18.

John Murray, arguably the central figure in the founding of institutionalized Universalism in North America, did not approve of infant baptism since, he said, it had no scriptural warrant. Upon his arrival in North America in 1770, some of his early converts to Universalism asked for baptisms; instead, he developed a ceremony which called “dedication,” in which he named the child, and dedicated her or him to God. The following documents describe early child dedications from the late 18th C. to the mid-19th C.

How John Murray developed the dedication ceremony
More from John Murray on dedications
Judith Sargent Murray describes child dedications
A Universalist dedication ceremony from 1855

Continue reading

Midwestern Unitarian christening ceremonies of the late 19th C.

The christening ceremonies of the Western Unitarian Conference contain many elements still used in contemporary Unitarian Universalist christening and child dedication ceremonies, including gender-inclusive language, the incorporation of flowers, and even the language of “dedication” rather than “christening.” You’ll find two complete christening services below:

1893 “Service of flowers and christenings” using gender-inclusive language
1884 “Christening service” including the term “dedication”

Continue reading