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Childbirth in the ASB and Common Worship

11 April 2012


From the Revd Jean Mayland

Sir, — I am sorry to write to you yet again, but I was stirred to do so by the letters last week about the churching service, and especially the one suggesting that the service was dropped because of misogyny. It was not. It was dropped because I asked my colleagues on the then Liturgical Commission to do so.

At the time, my husband was Vicar of a tough mining parish, and we frequently had a young woman at the door, asking my husband to go into church with her and church her, as her mother (or mother-in-law) would nor allow her into the house until she was churched. The whole concept was surrounded with dirt and superstition.

Instead, I suggested to my col­leagues a service of thanksgiving for safe delivery and the birth of the child, and prayers for the parents as they undertook their new respons­ibilities. We also added a service of thanksgiving after adoption. My second daughter is adopted, and the two years that the process took were as traumatic as any pregnancy. These services can be found in the Alternative Service Book (ASB) 1980.

In Common Worship, a new Liturgical Commission took this service, dropped the prayer of thanks for a safe delivery, and turned it into a service of naming and blessing of a child to offer as an alternative to baptism.

I suggest that to fulfil the needs spelt out, we need to recover the prayer for safe delivery from the ASB service, and develop a short service that gives thanks for that and prays for the new parent(s).

(I was incorrect in my letter of 30 March about the authorship of Bishops in Communion. It was not by Dame Mary Tanner, although she was involved in the first meetings, and it drew on the work of the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) of the World Council of Churches, of which she had been Moderator. She retired in 1998, and the paper was not published until 2000. It was written by the Faith and Order Advisory Group of the Coun­cil for Christian Unity, who drew on ideas from FAOC, which had pub­lished a study of “Episkope in the ser­vice of the koinonia of the Church”.)

5 Hackwood Glade, Hexham
Northumberland NE46 1AL

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