Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Churching of Women - Rector's Rambling for August 18, 2013

If you haven’t noticed, the Pastoral Offices of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer move in what is the most common chronological order: baptism, confirmation, and matrimony.  The next Office is one rarely used now, “The Thanksgiving of Women after Child-birth, commonly called the Churching of Women.” (p. 305)
The tradition comes from the older Jewish practice of a woman being confined from public worship for 40 days.  Jewish purity laws believed that a woman was unclean during the issue of blood, which also happens for a time after the birth of a child.  We may remember that our Lord was Presented in the Temple, and his mother Mary Purified on the 40th day of his life in the account from Luke 2:22–40.  Although it seems archaic to us, until recently a “due date” was known as the E.D.C. or “Estimated Date of Confinement”, assuming the mother and child need a time to bond and recover physically from the birth experience.  The confinement was also honored in ancient time for the child and mother’s health.
The 1928 Prayer Book liturgy celebrates the safe delivery of the child, giving thanks in prayer that God has been “graciously pleased to preserve, through the great pain and peril of child-birth, this woman, thy servant, who desireth now to offer her praises and thanksgivings unto thee.” (p. 306)  The Church also prays that “the child of this thy servant may daily increase in wisdom and stature, and grow in thy love and service, until he come to thy eternal joy.” (p. 307)
One interesting part of the rubric (instructions) for the service is the admonition that “The Woman…must offer accustomed offerings, which shall be applied by the Minister and the Church-wardens to the relief of distressed women in child-bed.”
Although written to be used in the Church, these prayers would certainly be convenient for use at home or hospital after the birth of a child by not only the clergy but laity as well.