In this age of small churches, church plants, and sharing worship space with other institutions and even businesses, we’ve got an unusual situation.  You see, churches and chapels and the like are usually consecrated or dedicated for the holy purpose of divine worship.  This doesn’t mean we are unable to worship anywhere else, but there is something very Gospel-proclaiming about setting aside a physical space or structure for the sole use of the Kingdom of God.  There is also the spiritual world to consider: a place of worship is a place where angels minister among us, and thus it is appropriate to expel first the evil angels, or demons.  This is, of a sort, an exorcism.  And those who meet for worship in a space that is used for non-church purposes during the week are advised to carry out such an exorcism before each worship service.

Says whom? The Book of Common Prayer (2019), on page 523, states:

Shared-use facilities like school auditoriums or community centers are not consecrated and dedicated, but weekly preparation for worship should include spiritual cleansing (exorcising) of any forces of darkness that may have entered, invited or uninvited.

Yup.  Welcome to Weird Rubric Wednesday!

wrw

A number of the “weird rubrics” we’ve looked at in the past are instances of what might feel like loopholes for strange practices or mucking about with the liturgy in strange ways.  This kind of weird rubric, however, is one that is probably more of a surprise to the average reader followed by a huge question mark – how should a church community go about exorcising its worship space every weekend?

There probably are other sources out there, perhaps even historic ones, that provide guidance to this scenario.  The main challenge here is that it is an extremely rare situation for a church to share sacred space with a secular institution, so a rite for our present need is not going to be prominently known from history; I highly doubt that there is a standard official rite for this even among Rome’s massive collection of medieval liturgies.

And so I made one up.  But that sounds sketchy and proprietary, so allow me to explain it properly, yet briefly.

In the confrontation of spiritual evil, there are (up to) seven movements a liturgically-minded devotion or Office might go through:

  1. Adoration of the Holy Trinity (to start with the fundamentals of worship)
  2. Celebration of the Communion of Saints (because we are not alone here)
  3. Veneration of the Cross (where God and the earth did meet in full power)
  4. Confrontation of Evil (now we’re ready to “speak truth to power” as it were)
  5. Confession and Absolution of Sin (where we send evil back to the Cross)
  6. Comfortable Words (let the Word of God speak peace into the situation)
  7. The Peace (close with a blessing or other word or prayer of finality)

This outline is generally in conformity with Deliverance ministries, exorcists, reconciliation of a penitent, and other similar ministries of prayer that deal directly with sin and evil powers.

How you spell this out for the purpose of cleansing/exorcising a worship space, well, may look different depending upon your specific situation and your churchmanship or theology.  As a generally-pretty-loyal-Prayer-Book-Anglican, I see it as right and proper that what I provide is entirely derived from the Prayer Book tradition.  It is not my place to introduce too many new and different intrusions to the life of the Church from what has already been established by canon law.

So here is how I would flesh out this summary into a Rite of Cleansing.

  1. Invocation of the Holy Trinity expanded from the beginning of the Ministry to the Sick
  2. Invocation of the Communion of Saints with Psalm 113, which is traditionally used in liturgies for Marian feast days
  3. Anthem of the Cross from the (2019) Good Friday Liturgy
  4. Prayers of Confrontation, again taken from the Good Friday Liturgy
  5. Sentences against Sin from the Scriptures (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  6. Collect from Evening Prayer and Compline for God’s angelic presence (mixing steps 5 & 6 above)
  7. The Grace from the end of the Daily Office

I made this short and simple so that anyone can use it, though added the option for a priest to use the Oil of Catechumens if desired.  The assumption is that a congregation’s first time in a shared-use space would do something like this on a larger scale together, and then this short Rite would be used privately by a smaller number of people on the weekly basis during set-up for the worship service.

Obviously there are a lot of factors that might color this situation rather differently.  If your church is meeting in a Lodge or a Synagogue or other religious or quasi-religious building, you’re going to want to be a lot more direct or “aggressive” in your opposition to spirits of deception and lies.  If your church is meeting in a building used by a Christian organization, you probably don’t need to be quite so confrontational.

Here is the described Rite in full:

 

INVOCATION OF THE HOLY TRINITY

Peace to this place, and all who enter it, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

INVOCATION OF THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.  Sing praises, you servants of the Lord; *
     O praise the Name of the Lord.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord, *
     from this time forth for evermore.
The Lord’s Name be praised *
     from the rising up of the sun to the going down of the same.
The Lord is high above all nations, *
     and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, who has his dwelling so high, *
     and yet humbles himself to behold the things
     that are in heaven and earth?
He takes up the lowly out of the dust, *
     and lifts the poor out of the ashes,
That he may set them with the princes, *
     even with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home to dwell in, *
     and makes her to be a joyful mother of children.
     Praise the Lord.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.  Amen.

ANTHEM OF THE CROSS
Psalm 67 with Antiphon

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

May God be merciful to us and bless us,
show us the light of his countenance, and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,
your saving health among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.

We glory in your Cross, O Lord,
and praise and glorify your holy resurrection;
for by virtue of your Cross
joy has come to the whole world.

PRAYERS OF CONFRONTATION

O God of truth and love, who desires not the death of sinners but rather that they should turn from their wickedness and live: Look with mercy on those who are deceived by the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil; that the hearts of those who have gone astray may be restored to wisdom and return to the way of truth in the unity of your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you are you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

SENTENCES OF SCRIPTURE AGAINST SIN

One or more of the following sentences is read.

When the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”  Jude 9

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9

Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.  Psalm 143:2

When a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.  Ezekiel 18:27

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Matthew 3:2

Rend your hearts and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.  Joel 2:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Psalm 51:17

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Daniel 9:9-10

COLLECT FOR CLEANSING

Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us in peace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Priest may use the Oil of Exorcism, applied at the doorframe of the entrance to the worship space.

CLOSING BLESSING

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore.  Amen.

 

3 thoughts on “Weekly exorcism of a rented worship space

  1. Is there something similar for consecrating/protecting the home? I’m searching in my BCP but don’t see anything.

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    1. No, nothing like that has ever been in a Prayer Book before. You can find forms of House Blessings in sources like the Book of Occasional Services (from the Episcopal church) and the Manual for Priests in the American Church (listed in one of my book reviews).

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