The (Re) Ritualisation of the Transition to Motherhood within the Church of England

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Joint Liturgical Studies 93

In cultures worldwide, rituals and rites of passage are used to mark life’s transitions: from birth, to coming of age, to death. However, universally it is matrescence, the transition to motherhood, which is the ‘least ritualised of the great human transitions’. The modern Church of England is no different: the once-expected service, Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth Commonly Called the Churching of Women (1662 Book of Common Prayer) has fallen out of use, perhaps replaced in pare by the Common Worship service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child, in which the focus is firmly on the child, and not the mother. The modern-day woman is left wondering where she fits in, on one hand participating in God’s creative work, and yet seemingly forgotten in the Church.

This work is intentionally output-focussed, and an aim is to offer resources which could be used with women in a variety of settings. As there are no authorised Common Worship resources, the liturgies are devised from scratch, using ocher existing resources for inspiration, but producing completely new liturgies. These are offered as guides only, to allow flexibility and creativity, and to enable the presenting needs of the woman traversing matrescence to be met.

Alice Watson is a priest in the Church of England and currently a curate in the Diocese of Peterborough. Her academic interests are the intersections of liturgy and pastoral care, particularly around ministry co women. Her work focuses mainly on pregnancy and childbirth, and she is also an honorary maternity chaplain in her local hospital. This volume consists of her MA thesis, and she hopes to begin doctoral study in the near future.