Home Opinion Church Dedication: Why, and How?

Church Dedication: Why, and How?

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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Church Dedication

By Emmanuel Gandu

Church dedication is the act of consecration of a church building to God for spiritual purposes, where the faithful have the right of access to public exercise of divine worship.

It is dedicated and consecrated as a holy and solemn place of worship.

This solemn practice is not only as old as Christianity itself but is of Jewish origin that dates back to the pre-Christian era.

It is a religious requirement that a church building is consecrated, sanctified, cleanses, and presented to God for His spiritual blessings to enable the congregation to use it as a sacred place of worship.

Biblical, Precedence, and Legal Authority for Church Dedication

(1) “The Lord said to Moses……..Then dedicates the tent…. with sacred oil and it will be holy. Next, dedicate the alter…..by anointing it,….” – Exodus 40:1-38

(2) “Then King Solomon and all the people there offered sacrifices to the Lord. He sacrificed 22,000 heads of cattle and 120,000 sheep….. And so the king and all the people dedicated the Temple…….” – 1Kings 8:62-66, 2 Chronicles 7:3-10

(3) “Then the people of Israel – the Priests, Levites, and all others….. Joyfully dedicated the Temple…..” – Ezra 6:13-18

(4) “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church …..” – Matthew 16:18

(5) Jesus’ attendance at the feast of dedication – John 10:22-23

(6) The Saint John Lateran Cathedral, the seat of the Pope and Bishop of Rome was consecrated in AD 324.

(7) Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, whose ground-breaking on 18th April 1506 was consecrated on 18th November 1626.

(8) The Code of Canon Law grants and expressly states the various roles, conditions, and guidelines for church building dedication following in line with the laws of Sacred Liturgy: (Canon 1214 – 1222)

(9) The Nigerian National Christian Centre (Ecumenical) in Abuja whose building construction commenced in 1989 was dedicated on 2nd October 2005.

This dedication Service was presided over by the Most Reverend Peter Akinola, the Anglican Primate of Nigeria.

(10) St. Augustine of Hippo Catholic Church Kongo Zaria was Re-Dedicated on 1st November 2015 by Archbishop Augustine Kasujja, the then Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria. The host Bishop was Dr. George Jonathan Dodo and Very Rev Fr Jonathan Yabiliyok was the Parish Priest.

This Re-Dedication was a result of rebuilding the church which was destroyed by the bomb blast of 18/4/2011 during that 2011 post-election violence in Northern Nigeria.

(11) On the 20th of June, 2021, the Catholic Diocese of Zaria Nigeria dedicated the Maria Assumpta Catholic Church to Jushi Waje. Presiding over was the Catholic Bishop of Zaria Most Rev. Dr. George Jonathan Dodo, with the clergy including the Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Hosea Hassan Damina in the presence of the lay faithful.

How is church dedication carried out?

There is no blueprint for church-building dedication ceremonies in all of the denominations/groups in Christendom.

However, the practices, rituals, and conduct of the ceremony come with one philosophy, ie, the consecration of a place for the solemn worship of God.

I will therefore seek your pardon to allow me to draw my experiences from the procedures I have observed as a layman of the Catholic Church, which may not be quite far from others.

The steps and procedure for church building dedication include the following:

The role of Bishop

(1) On the day of consecration/dedication, the Bishop who is the presiding/ chief celebrant proceeds to the door of the church from the outside. At the entrance, he blesses Holy Water and some lit candles. These candles will be placed at specified times and placed both on the outside and inside of the church.

Next, he sprinkles the walls around the outside of the church with holy water.

The Bishop then approaches the main door of the church from the outside which is locked, has no worshipers inside, and knocks at it (the door).

This knocking on the door is done a few numbers of times before he opens and enters.

(2) As he enters, the Bishop is closely followed in a procession by the clergy, Mass servers, acolytes, lectors, choir, etc.

(3) Having entered the church, the Bishop then fixes a cross at a location inside the church, after which the Litany is said, including a special “clause” for the consecration of the church.

(4) The Bishop next approaches and genuflects before the Alter, blesses water mingled with salt, ashes, and wine.

He then sprinkles the mixture of water in 12 earmarked points on the walls of the church from the inside.

The 12 points represent the 12 Apostles.

(5) Following next is the consecration of the Alter with the sprinkles of Holy Water, Oil of Chrism, and Oil of the Catechumens by the Bishop.

Incense is next blessed, and the Alter is censed, including the inside and outside of the church.

(6) The next stage is the consecration of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle contains the consecrated host and wine for the Eucharist.

(7)At the conclusion of the 6th stage, Mass begins with the observance of all Liturgical, and other activities earmarked for the ceremony of dedication, and ends with the final blessings.

(8) For further understanding:

(a) The 12 points for marking with the oil, and, for the sprinkled water, and for putting up the lighted candles represent the 12 Apostles.

(b) The lighting of the church and the lighting of the candles symbolizes the showing and the bringing of light to the world.

(c) The burning of the incense is to take the prayers of the faithful through the rising smoke to heaven.

(9) Though optional, there may be some form of refreshment, entertainment, cultural display outside the church, etc, in order to round up the spiritual event in a lighter mood.

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