An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Purification of Women (after childbirth)

The title given in the 1549 BCP to the rite commonly called the Churching of Women. It is derived from the Sarum rite. Its ultimate source is the Jewish rite of purification, and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 2:22-39). St. Augustine of Canterbury mentions the existence of this Christian rite. In the 1552 BCP the title of the service was changed to “The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, commonly called the Churching of Women.” In the 1979 BCP the service was replaced by “A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child.” The text of the Prayer Book service has always stressed thanksgiving for the mother's preservation through “the great danger of childbirth.” The service itself includes a psalm and prayers. The churching was originally the occasion for the return of the child's white baptismal robe to the parish. The present rite includes both parents and gives thanks for the birth (or adoption) of the child. All suggestions of ritual impurity have been removed.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.