To be asked to be a godparent to someone’s child is an honour and a sacred privilege. What is being asked of you is to ultimately be a spiritual guardian, to ensure that your godchild will grow up to be faithful Christian with values and respect.

But what is also being asked of you is to have a loving and fulfilling relationship with your godchild. Be someone they can turn to when they can’t go to mum and dad. Be someone they can trust and be open with. Be someone they will open up to, respect and love.

At the crux of the godparent’s role is religion. As part of the Orthodox faith every person, child or adult, should have a godparent at baptism. Holy Baptism is the first of seven sacraments in the Orthodox church. According to the Sacrament of Holy Baptism in the Orthodox Church, a baptism “shows us that God loves us and accepts us before we can ever know and love Him. It shows us that we are wanted and loved by God from the very moment of our birth”.

Therefore, the core role of the godparent is to promise to see that the child is raised and education in Orthodox Christian faith. And before you can even be selected to be a godparent, you must be of Orthodox faith. The purpose of Holy Baptism is to: remove the consequences of the ‘original sin’; to wash away all other sins committed before the time of baptism if the person is beyond the age of infancy; and to unite the person to the ‘body of Christ’ (the church) and to open the door of salvation and eternal life to him or her.

The role of a godparent just begins when the child is baptised – the responsibilities of a godparent last a lifetime. A godparent offers spiritual, religious and social guidance. The role itself develops and blooms over time as the child and godparent form a strong relationship.

Matina Sinodinos understands that bond. She said her bond with her godmother is more complex as is at a different emotional level than the bond with her parents. “My godmother is a woman I highly respect and admire as she treats me with compassion and kindness and is always there for me when I need to talk to someone. “She is a remarkable lady and has not only taught me to love the Greek Orthodox faith but to love my family and myself. Through the dark and difficult times she has constantly been by my side and continues to support me in every way possible.”

With the religious role of the godparent aside, a good way of looking at what they do is to see them as a mentor. A godparent is literally like a second parent. They are the person that the child can turn to when they are scared or embarrassed to talk about something with their own parents. And the bond between godchild and godparent is strong. It is a role built on respect and love.

When choosing a godparent, a parent should really think hard about this lifelong role as a godparent can at times become the person who is responsible for your child should anything ever happen to you both. A parent needs to look at the moral integrity of the person they are going to choose and dedication to their child’s life and steer away from any decisions based on social or financial status.

They need to also discuss with the godparent how they want their child raised but normally the godparent will form their own unique bond and connection with their godchild. When it came time for Theo and Anna Mylonas to baptise their first-born daughter Portia, they “wanted to give the honour to someone [they] were close with and that [they] saw often.”

They chose Anna’s younger sister Katherine because they knew she would be a good role model for Portia. “The role of the godmother is simple,” said Anna, “be the child’s second parent. Be a good role model, give good advice and support her in times of need when mum and dad aren’t around. As for Portia, we will try and teach her respect and love for your family is more important than anything in life.”

A way to build this relationship is to make sure you play an active role as a godparent in the godchild’s life. Rejoice when they do well at school, be there when they reach milestone moments. Include them as much as possible in your life, even if you have your own children, ensure that they spend time together and grow up together to harness a brother and sister type relationship. Even if you live far away, with modern technology there is no reason why you can’t play a solid role in their life. Also, it is customary that the godparent provides spiritual gifts for their godchild such as icons, bibles and religious books to help foster the spiritual guidance. A godchild, too, has a role to play and a responsibility toward their godparent.

Respect always plays a big part in this relationship. A godparent is always there for you to give advice, to help you in times of need. In the same way you are never too old to ask advice from your parents, the same can be said of your godparents. But the best thing to remember is being a godparent is a lifelong commitment. Think of it like being a parent. You are there to provide and offer guidance and support, be an emotional rock for whenever your godchild needs you. The role of a godparent is rewarding and rich and the benefits are endless.