by Terry M. Smith
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Whereas, the Church of _____, is no longer to be used for acts of worship, And whereas the Church building and the land upon which it is erected is about to be/being sold; now, therefore, we, by Divine Permission . . . do declare that the Church of ____ , once duly dedicated and consecrated to the Divine worship of Almighty God, has by virtue of this our sentence, lost said dedication and consecration. (U. S. Anglican rite)
The Church is people, not a building. Yet if a Christian group sells or gives a building used for worship to another part of the Church, please do not deconsecrate it first. Why? In such an instance, deconsecration seems a weak witness to the wider reality of Christ’s Church.
Years ago, two Anglican congregations merged in Flin Flon, Man., and one building was sold to a Mennonite Brethren congregation—yet a deconsecration service occurred. More recently, a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania took over a building from a Polish Catholic congregation; again, a deconsecration service was held.
Why were these particular buildings deconsecrated? Perhaps the rite happened before there was any knowledge of another church’s interest. If so, it makes sense. Or did it happen despite a church’s expressed interest? If so, it wouldn’t make sense.
Were these buildings originally consecrated, in the eyes of God, only for a particular rite, whether Anglican or Polish Catholic? This would be too limiting. The above U.S. Anglican rite, for instance, mentions that “acts of worship” would not continue. Yet, in Flon Flon and Pennsylvania, Christian worship was to continue.
“When I see a wall between Christians,” John XXIII said, “I try to pull out a brick.” Leaving the consecration intact on buildings to be used for further Christian worship fits his example.