Rituals for reconnecting as we emerge from COVID

AMBS employees wearing masks, carrying food and getting ready to eat

By Rachel Miller Jacobs, D.Min., Associate Professor of Congregational Formation and Director of Worship

Each year in the Christian Worship: Theory and Practice class, we spend a couple of weeks on rituals. What I call “classic” rituals are the ones most people are familiar with: baptism, communion, weddings, and funerals. Yet these classic rituals, while important, don’t exhaust the need for ritual action in our lives. So I also ask students to create new rituals that emerge at the intersection of a biblical text and powerful emotions: either negative events, painful feelings, or disturbing experiences that are lingering in the shadows and need release; or positive events, exciting feelings, or energizing experiences that need acknowledgment, blessing, and empowerment. Sometimes new rituals are used only once; sometimes they have a resonance that invites us to return to them several times or to share them with others.

As part of their work in this year’s class, students created new rituals for a variety of situations: for speaking a lament during a counseling session, for remembering family members who had died in the last year, for naming and releasing fears, for reconciling after congregational conflict, for regathering in a particular church building, and for welcoming all to worship in a diverse gathering.

Two rituals that students created were both general (not tied to a particular community) and specific to this moment (for them) in the COVID-19 pandemic: eating indoors with people from other households for the first time since the pandemic began, and reopening a building shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic. These are the ones we are sharing for your use here — recognizing that depending on one’s context, people may not yet be ready for these rituals or may have passed the time when they needed them.

If you choose to use these rituals, we ask that you please give credit to the authors.