As people around the world watch news of the birth of Kate Middleton and Prince William's baby boy, the priests and parishioners of Westminster Abbey, the Anglican church where the royal couple was married, are taking celebrations to another level.
Church bells will ring consecutively for three hours and fifteen minutes on Tuesday afternoon to observe the new arrival, for whom the 600 worshippers said prayers on Monday evening while the Middleton was still in labor. A ten-person team -- with substitutes in case of sickness or fatigue -- will helm the bells for a full peal in a method of ringing called the Cambridge Surprise Royal. In city squares around the United Kingdom, churches are also ringing their bells.
"This is a time when the example of a royal baby focuses the attention on the importance of every baby and child," said the Rev. John Hall, the dean of the abbey who officiated at the couple's wedding. "It's a time of looking forward, of great hope. The truth is that every birth is a sign of new hope and new life, but the birth of this baby brings joy throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth and many other places, including the United States."
The young boy, not even a day old, is now the third person in the line of succession to be the King of England, after his father and Prince Charles, his grandfather. The church, which prays for Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, by name at every service and prays in broad terms for the royal family, "shall include the baby in our prayers," said Hall.
In religious terms, one of the biggest moments in the new child's life will come within a few months, when he is christened. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev. Justin Welby, is expected to perform the christening, which typically takes place three-to-six months after birth. William's christening was held in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, while the christening for his brother, Prince Harry, was held at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.
"Christen is a term we use that's similar to baptism. In other words, the child will be initiated as a Christian through a ceremony which goes back in time to when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. We conceive it as entering into Christ," said Hall, who will not take part in the ceremony. "It's not a matter of washing but a matter of dying into ourselves and rising into Christ. We go into the water's baptism and come up as a new creation in Christ. We become a member of the body of Christ of the church."
At the christening, royal children usually wear a satin and lace gown that's a replica of one that was used for the occasion when Queen Victoria's oldest daughter was christened in 1841. Hall said the family usually decides when to have a christening, and that for royal children it is typically a private event.