May 1, 2009

FF: Ritual

From Rev Gals: I believe that we live in a ritually impoverished culture, where
we have few reasons for real celebration, and marking the passages of life.

1. Are ritual markings of birth marriage and death important to you?

Absolutely! They are how we make meaning out of these very difficult and beautiful transitions in our lifes. Even when we think that we are bypassing rituals, we are usually creating our own practices for coping and celebrating what has happened. Even something as simple as placing your baby into the crib for the first time is filled with significance and meaning and how you do it that first time will shape how you do it from then on. As a pastor, I see my role as to speak to where and how God is present in the rituals that I help a family perform.

2. Share a favourite liturgy/ practice.

In my wedding ceremony, we wanted to acknowledge that we had already been on a long journey together. We got married on our seven and a half year anniversary. So this was one more step in a relationship that we committed to long ago. I found this piece of liturgy and we used it at the beginning of the service:

President: We have come together in the presence of God to witness the marriage of Brandon and Katie, to celebrate their love for each other, and to ask God’s blessing upon them.

2nd Voice: Through the ages, people on great journeys have stopped at important places, and at decisive moments, to build cairns at the roadside – to make the spot, to measure progress, and to leave reminders of their arrivals and leavings to which they and others can always return.

3rd Voice: Katie and Brandon’s relationship is a great journey that, in different ways, we have traveled and will continue to travel with them. Nothing will ever be the same: for Brandon and Katie; for us who know them; or for the community in which they will live and move. They are to be married.

President: God’s Word reveals to us that the very nature of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, along with all human experience, for we are made in the image of God, is to be understood as relationship. In the great stories of God’s people and in the coming of Jesus we are shown how God binds himself to us, in a relationship that we can only call love. Jesus himself gave us a new commandment, “that you love one another as I have loved you.”

2nd Voice: We grow through relationships, for they give human life its purpose and direction. This is why we reach out to others. Our live consists not only in being but in becoming. Loving relationships are always on the move. They cannot stand still. They are a journey.

3rd Voice: Let us mark this decisive moment in Katie and Brandon’s journey now, adding to the cairn the stones of our love, our support and our prayers for them as they make their promises.

President: Creating and Redeeming God,
It is your love which draws us together.
Through the love which we have for one another,
May we also grow in love for you.
Walking with Christ as our companion on the way,
May we come to share the joy
Which you have prepared for all who love you;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
[New Zealand, p. 802, adapted]

The two other voices besides our pastor were members of each of our families. The only thing that I wish we had done that we didn't have the foresight to think about was to actually have family members bring a stone and to build a cairn... then we could have taken those stones with us to our new home.

3. If you could invent ( or have invented) a ritual what is it for?

wow, I guess see above! Something else that we kind of invented was at my grandpa's funeral. He was a farmer and was always outside in the fields or in his gardens. He died in October and we couldn't not make the fall harvest part of his funeral. We brought it tall stalks of corn from the field and placed it around the casket. And each of the grandchildren picked a pumpkin and we placed them at the base of the casket - one for each of us. We also had a number of significant others among us grandchildren - three of us were engaged... and the "SO's" picked out squashes to represent themselves. We created meaning and remembrance out of that moment... we still call our "so's" squashes. And everytime we do so, we remember Deda's funeral.

4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan / ancient festivals? Have you done this and how?

I haven't really thought to do it explicitly, but I'm also very aware that Easter and Christmas fall when they do, in large part because of pagan/ancient festivals.

I think that there is a very fine line to balance when incorporating those traditions and rituals into your life. You don't want to impose your own values on beliefs on something you don't completely understand and in doing so possibly undo the meaning of the original ritual. There was an awful lot of imperialism and conquest involved in our original appropriation of some rituals.

But at the same time, we always bring to any rituals we encounter our own meaning. We adapt the rituals we encounter to fit our lives and our circumstances. And so if we encounter a new ritual, I think the best thing is to learn as much as you can about it and practice it with (if you feel that is appropriate and not denying the God you follow) others who know it well, and then make it your own.

5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be?

In my back yard with good friends and family... with a roaring fire =) Conversation, laughter, music, some wine and some good food off of the grill.


  1. Great play, love that wedding liturgy :-)

  2. The New Zealand Prayer is fast becoming a favorite of mine. Great play.

  3. Your grandpa's funeral as a harvest festival-- how beautiful! I love the image of heaping up those sheaves of grain, bringing in the pumpkins and the squashes... thank you for sharing this.

  4. wonderful play--i especially appreciate you sharing your grandpa's funeral/harvest celebration--it is amazing!