2007-02-14 / Religion

Christening held aboard ship

by USS John S. McCain Public Affairs

Christening held aboard Ysabel Wells being christened in ship's bell Christening held aboard Ysabel Wells being christened in ship's bell Lt. Commander Chris Wells and his wife Ann gathered with family and friends to take part in a historic ceremony on the bridge of USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) December 17.

Presided over by Captain John H. Lea III, force chaplain, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan, the christening ceremony for Ysabel Suzanne Wells was conducted in the ship's bell, originally cast for USS John S. McCain (DL-3) and used by both DDG-36 and DDG-56. A dozen guests participated in the christening which was punctuated with scripture readings and the hymn, "Blest Be the Tie that Bind."

John S. McCain's bell held water from the River Jordan for the baptism, and Religious Program Specialist 1st Class (SW) Christopher Eddy assisted with the ceremony. Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Heames and his wife Stephanie stood in for the godparents who were unable to attend.

The tradition of shipboard christening ceremonies originated in the British Royal Navy, where it was a custom to baptize a child in the ship's bell. The ships were considered sovereign, and thus a child baptized on board would be immediately granted citizenship. Naval tradition also dictates that once the baptism is completed, the child's name is inscribed inside the lip of bell with the date of christening.

Her name spelled out in signal flags adorning the bridge, Ysabel seemed to barely notice that she was not only participating in a long-standing naval tradition, but also a religious ceremony nearly as old as the church itself.

"This is the first name to be engraved in this particular bell, having served three ships, and that's pretty significant. No matter where she goes or what she does in life, she will always have the nearly 300 Sailors of "Big Bad John" to help guide her.

"The Wells family and especially young Ysabel will forever be a part of the family here on John S. McCain," said Lt. Chris England, McCain's weapons officer.

Ysabel is the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Wells Jr. of Colquitt.

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