Godparents, depending on one’s background, culture, and relationship to a religious heritage, play very different roles. Depending on several factors, expectations from the denomination may differ as well:
The ritual requirement is that godparents be baptismal sponsors, standing with the family when the baby is baptized into Christianity. The Catholic Church requires there to be at least one godparent, though there can be two, of opposite sexes.
Other churches have other ways. “When I was a kid,” the Rev. Elizabeth Hoster of Trinity Episcopal Church, a godmother and goddaughter, said, “the tradition was that you had three godparents: two of your same gender and one of the opposite gender. That’s not followed anymore.”
The Very Rev. Paul Gassios of St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Rossford said, “Ideally the norm is we want the godparents to be Orthodox Christians. If that’s not the case, then we would ask that at least one be, and we hope that they will be practicing their faith.” Father Paul is the godfather of two, and he said his relationship with his own godparents was closer in community and family terms than as religious guides. But “I remember them now. They’re departed, so at every liturgy … I put a little bread crumb for them aside.”
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the Rev. Chrysanne Timm, senior pastor of Olivet Lutheran Church in Sylvania, “We refer to them as baptismal sponsors,” and informally use the term godparents. “We invite them to be part of the benchmarks: when they have their first communion, when they begin confirmation, those kinds of things.” Pastor Timm is baptismal sponsor of three, and her young-adult children are close to their godparents.
A lack of religion might enter into a decision at times, Mrs. McCready said. “If you want your brother who hasn’t been inside a church since confirmation, you can have him. … It might give him a little spark [in his faith]. You have to look at it both ways.”
The relationship can be challenging. “The streets of the chruch are littered with godparents who feel like they’ve been failures,” said Rev. Hoster. “I can say I’m one of them.” She and a goddaughter “are still in each other’s satellites; there’s an ebb and flow to it.”
For more on different perspectives on Godparents, visit the Toledo Blade here.