Although Wilson Kutamba, a journalist, knows he was baptised, the 22-year-old says he does not know any of his three godparents. The lukewarm believer, who even doubts if there is a resurrection after death, says, “My weak faith could even stem from them not being responsible.”
Baptism is one of the sacraments that brings one into the flock of Jesus Christ. It acknowledges that the baptised is now a child of God and shall always believe in Him.
The purpose of godparents
To foster this, the Anglican Church and Catholic Church norms require a child to have three godparents. The idea of three parents signifies the Trinity (God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
For a boy, two godfathers and one godmother are needed, while a girl has to have two godmothers and a godfather. The trio is charged with providing guidance and spiritual life lessons to their godchild.
Canon Gaster Nsereko, the sub-dean, St Paul’s Cathedral Kako, the seat of West Buganda Diocese, says parents need to be careful when choosing godparents for their children.
“Some parents do not adequately prepare for baptism. Instead, they focus on the baptism party, what to wear and eat. They forget about choosing godparents, which is a cardinal element in baptism and this has continued to render godparents useless.”
Ideally, he notes, spiritual parents have to be role models but parents do not bother to study the spiritual characters of the people they choose.
“We have seen many parents choosing godparents from the congregation minutes before the baptism. The people they choose are not even aware of the child’s name; they whisper to the parents asking for the name.”
Parents are to blame
The big question is whether these spiritual parents play their expected role in the spiritual lives of their godchildren. Although Martha Nalukenge, an actress, is a spiritual mother now, her spiritual parents have never engaged her in spiritual talk. “I am just fortunate that my mother is a devoted Christian. Otherwise, today, I would have nothing to teach my spiritual child.”
Paul Abaho, a media personality, says, “I disagree with this whole notion of godparents. I see nothing but hypocrisy of the highest order and typical misinterpretation of the scriptures. A child grows, goes to school and then, gets a job without even seeing or interacting with his or her godparents.”
Much as he is left with one godparent after the death of the other two, Reverend Amos Friday, the Vicar of All Saints Church Nyendo says his godfather has played his role, and it is no wonder he became a priest.
However, the cleric is also convinced that many godparents do not play their role. “Godparents are becoming ceremonial, and parents front them just for the sake of complying with church norms, yet they are divinely entitled to nurture the child as God-fearing. They will be accountable for this before God.”
He adds that some parents are driven by the secular reputation of the people they choose.
“I have observed that parents in this era want prominent, rich people to be their children’s godparents. These people may not even have time for the children, if at all they are able to recall that they are godparents.”
The consequences of an absent godparent
In a situation where biological parents are also too busy for their children, there is bound to be moral and spiritual decay.
The Book of Romans 12:2 says: Don’t copy the behaviour and customes of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
“Many youth have conformed to the evil trends of this world, because of lack of spiritual guidance, which should have been administered by the parents, religious leaders, and godparents,” Rev Friday says.
Canon Nsereko advises parents to choose godparents with whom they have a close relationship and whose character they know.
“This gives you assurance that the godparents will instill their spiritual morals in your child. Do not just consider someone because they receive Holy Communion. Not everyone who receives Holy Communion is a devout Christian.”
Although the role of godparents is less clear and infrequent today, being a godparent is an honour. However, besides yourself, a godparent is another person to love and nurture a child. As a parent of the child, the importance you attach to the role will guide the godparent on how they are to exercise their responsibilities to the child.
If you feel that you chose the wrong person as a godparent, pray for that person to take their role seriously. You can also communicate to them how you feel. Do not let him or her gradually fade out of your child’s life.
Selecting the perfect godparent
1. You should have been in touch with the person you want to choose for many years because you are going to be with them for the rest of your life.
2. They should be people you trust, who are capable of supporting and guiding your child’s spiritual journey.
3. You should choose people who are grounded in religion and spirituality. These are characteristics they should be able to pass on to your child.
4. Choose people who will have a positive influence on your child. Shun people who are morally bankrupt.
5. They should be ready to step in and support the child in the unfortunate situation that the child is orphaned.
6. Do not get stuck on people who go to church every day, but rather find someone who is loving, selfless, and kind: an embodiment of Christ.