Nick-named “The Churching of Women” in the classical Prayer Books, this brief rite is another stand-alone service that modern Prayer Books have pulled into the context of the Service of Holy Communion. This rite has been further revised to include the possibility of a home or hospital visit of the minister to the mother.
If used during a regular worship service, this rite takes places after the Peace (or before the Offertory) or at the end of the Daily Office.
In no case is this a substitute for baptizing the child, nor may this be considered a “Child Dedication.” This is a time of thanksgiving for the mother’s safe delivery of a child or a time of prayer to encourage the parents who have now received a child or children.
The Additional Directions indicate “difficult circumstances” may require this rite to be considered with pastoral sensitivity. If the child is born injured or with a degenerative condition, if the mother is injured or killed in the delivery, if the children adopted suffered prior abuse or carry difficult conditions, if the child born was unplanned or one parent is abandoned by the other, this rite may take on quite a different tone. The underlying truth, in all cases, is that children are gifts from God – all life is sacred. The Church proclaims and celebrates this truth even amidst the devastating difficulties that can accompany pregnancy and birth. This rite has enough optional material to give it necessary flexibility, but if the minister wishes to change it beyond the confines of the rubrics, the Bishop must be consulted first.
If this rite is not a part of another worship service, Luke 18:15-17 should be read. The option to read the Gospel according to the appointed Communion service of that day is best utilized in a scenario where the minister is visiting the family, all is well, and they’ve simply missed church that week due to the birth.
The minister reads the appropriate address, for a birth or an adoption, and proceeds immediately to the Canticle.
The 1662 Prayer Book appointed a choice of Psalms 116 and 127, read by the minister. Here, the family also is invited to read either the Magnificat or Psalm 116. The Psalm acknowledges “trouble and sorrow” and the Magnificat is more praise-oriented; the minister should choose between them according to the situation.
The Kyrie and Lord’s Prayer may be omitted if this rite is being held within another worship service.
The traditional suffrages and prayer for the mother’s deliverance through childbirth are omitted if inapplicable.
Of the two prayers for the child, the first is more generally useful, while the second is most appropriate for a newborn.
The Prayers for parents, siblings, and birth-parents should be added when applicable.
Only a priest or bishop may pronounce the blessing at the end, though the three-fold “May God…” can be read by any minister.