The Godless Godmother

The GodmotherThe first time it became apparent to me that even ‘nothing’ is ‘something’ was when I saw my first dead body.

My Nana lay there, looking like a Madame Tussaud’s version of herself. What struck me was not her absence, but the very tangible presence of her death: I could feel it.

The weight of her loss was so enormous, it felt like it had its own gravitational pull. Perhaps it didn’t. Perhaps it was the psychological loss I felt. But it seemed more than that.

Today, while attending a christening. I couldn’t help think of Nana’s funeral. The same hymn was sung at both. Each time, I sang with all my heart.

For both occasions, funeral and christening, I had the best seat in the house. As her only Granddaughter, I sat right at the front of the service when saying farewell to Nana. And today, as a Godmother, I took a similar vantage point.

If you read this blog you will have gleaned that while I am supportive, and even jealous of others’ religion, I just can’t find God. Despite looking for him now and then, I remain an atheist.  The decision to be Godmother was therefore one I struggled with.

I explained to the parents, who regularly attend church, that I am not religious. After some open discussions, and with their blessing, I quickly felt thrilled and comfortable with taking on the  role.

When I was feeling particularly doubtful of my ability to fulfil my duties, a cynical voice inside my head tried to make itself heard: if God really is nothing to me, there really is nothing to worry about.

What I failed to realise is how that ‘nothing’ is very much a ‘something’.

It’s not that I don’t believe in God, it’s that I do believe there is no God. I guess that is part of the faith that guides me.

Today in the service, the words I needed to utter stuck momentarily in my throat. I had not realised how strong my faith is.

In retrospect though, I don’t regret taking on the role of the Godless Godmother. I feel so honoured and privileged to have this little person in a special place in my life. I plan to take my duties seriously.

But still, was what I did ‘good’ or ‘right’?

Is it that black and white?

Or am I, at the end of a lovely, fulfilling and spiritual day, just making something out of nothing?








15 thoughts on “The Godless Godmother

  1. Clare Flourish says:

    I had a look at the baptism service of the CofE. It is very Christian. You are not promising to try to be a good person, you are stating you believe the Faith and will help bring the child up in it.

    The job is supporting parents and child, and I feel you can do that; I would not expect preaching from a Godparent; but, yeah. What we say matters.

    You’ll just have to join the church then! Faith will come in God’s good time… 🙂


    • Abby Boid says:

      What we say really does matter doesn’t it. It is too easy to underestimate the power of language and of ceremony. I remember thinking it would never matter either way whether or not I gotmarried…but I did get married….and the words and the ceremony changed a lot of things at some level (civil ceremony).
      I am not sure welcoming a child into the world with a big lie is the best think I have ever done. But I will be honest about that from now on. Not entirely sure this resolves this issue. But still, I have a conviction I did something right that day.
      Oh – and what a ridiculous amount of time it took to respond to these great comments……cursed?


      • Clare Flourish says:

        On what we say, have a listen to tonight’s four thought, also iPlayer. The man tells what a difference was made to survey answers by calling it “Consumer survey” or “Citizen survey”. Words matter a great deal.


  2. Sonya Cisco says:

    I too am a godless godmother, but in my case the childs parents weren’t religious either, it was just expected in their family to have a christening in the village church as a rite of passage as much as anything, so I felt no qualms about doing it – as to the people that mattered, my friends, godmother meant the same as it did to me – someone who is family via friendship not blood, someone who is there to love and support the child and mum and dad as a friend – and someone to buy cool presents for Xmas and birthdays!


    • Abby Boid says:

      aaarrgghh. bloody technology – got some of the most interesting comments ever to this post and totally failed to register any comments. I digress.
      I am totally excited about the cool prezzie angle! I have three boys and am god mum to a girl – she is going to be ridiculously pink and sparkly if I have anything to do with it (nothing I would have ever done to a daughter if I had had one!!). I think family expectations play such a large part. I think if everyone is coming to the service, and the role, with similar expectations then there is surely little harm in the actions?? Although, I do worry that it may really offend people and I really hope I have not done that.


    • Abby Boid says:

      I think that is probably how I have interpreted it. The family who asked are very dear to me indeed and I feel utterly honoured to be part of their lives in this way. Thank you for commenting.


  3. chantal says:

    Thanks for the blog. Found it really interesting.
    As a god mother you are making promises and saying that you believe in Jesus Christ personally I feel if you don’t have a faith and don’t plan to uphold those promises I would wonder why you would want to be a god mother. In the service there is nothing that says you have a special bond with that child or any other duties other than to support the child in their Christian faith and support the parents to do tje same. It’s lovely you really care for the child and feel a special bond and no doubht the parents have a strong relationship with you and have a lot of love for you I just wish there was a way all that could be expressed in an official but non church way that slant ask people to make promises they can’t keep. Almost like a registery office version on a christening I’m thinking.

    Not trying to be rude at all just think that making promises of faith should be for those that have a faith but there should be an equally lovely celebration for those that don’t.


    • Abby Boid says:

      Firstly, I am so sorry it has taken me an eternity to respond to your very thought provoking comment – technical issues at my end. Secondly, I don’t think you are being rude at all. In fact, a voice very like yours was definitely in my head when asked. I too totally agree that I wish there was some way to express our support and love without the church angle. I did look at doing a humanist type thing for my three but it just couldn’t come up with anything that felt ‘right’. So, I did nothing at all.
      Interestingly, I have declined an offer to be godmother once and then accepted this time. It was two different families. The first family, none of them went to church or have ever been to church. And I knew that the vicar there felt it very important that everyone – both families and all godparents were totally committed. This time I know both families are religious, and actively attend and support the church. I think I kind of justified it by thinking that if it stood comfortably with them, it was fine with me. Cop out? Maybe! On balance though I am still happy with the decision.


  4. Fat Woman says:

    I think you did the right thing. Religion is not just believing, it’s about belonging and being a godparent is the way to have you belong in a child’s life. I see some of my role as godparent as helping my god son learn to evaluate religion and develop personal ethics. I shan’t undo his religious teaching but hopefully help him understand.


    • Abby Boid says:

      Argh. Seen a load of comments where my reply never got posted. So, thank you very very much for taking the time to respond. The way you summarise your role as godparent is just perfect and something I am going to totally pinch.


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