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.
- Flower planting to mark the reopening of a building after COVID-19 | Based on Luke 24:1-12 and written by Alaina Dobkowski, a student from Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States.
- Eating together again | Based on Luke 24:13-35 and written by Lisa Heinrichs, a student from Hope, British Columbia, Canada.
If you choose to use these rituals, we ask that you please give credit to the authors.