Monday, October 20, 2008

Rituals and Anglicans. And stuff.

This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you’re craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet. If you bring the right earnestness to your homemade ceremony, God will provide the grace. And that is why we need God.
- Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love

I used to think that rituals were old, outdated things. I got bored at my old Lutheran church when we lit the candles, said the same words a million times, bowed to the same old traditions.

But as I grow older, I have found that I crave the deep meanings inherent in these and other traditions. In fact, I have found, like Elizabeth Gilbert, a need for more rituals than my own faith community and my culture seem to make room for. I crave a life and an existence which is full of meaning and meaning-making. Some days I rely on it to finish the day. So I have created prayers, rituals, other methods of filling this need in my life – in intentionally connecting my daily (sometimes drudging) tasks with the Divine. To consciously accept and remember that all of life is spiritual – even the boring and mundane parts. And especially the exciting and vibrant parts.

This is why I sometimes attend Anglican churches, even though I don’t always understand what is going on. This is why I love and connect with SCM Canada – we ritualize almost everything in a really joyful and meaningful way. National Conference was full of rituals. Local meetings, when we had them, were full of meaningful rituals. SCM, those wonderful Anglicans, and others have recognized the need to assign meaning to both trivial and spectacular life occurrences.
It’s cool. I dig it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for these beautiful words, Bre. It's ritual that drew me into the Anglican liturgy (and I feel comfortable in Orthodox and Catholic liturgies now, too - a universal worship currency if you will).

However, I do often yearn for and enjoy the informality of casual, more charismatic worship styles, though it doesn't feed me in the same way, not in the long term.

I feel drawn to emergent churches that are more about justice than they are about being hip.

I always found that in both charismatic and reformed churches there was always pressure to look happy or enlightened or something.

I find a comfort in the 'just-as-i-am' routine of liturgy, that it doesn't matter how crappy I feel, I still hear the altar call and walk up to the communion rail... but I wonder if we go in waves of needing structure versus informality?

Perhaps it's some kind of a spectrum that allows us to constantly renew our spiritual journey if we choose to follow God first, and are willing to journey into new worship terrain with our eyes towards God.

A theologian named Newbeggin (spelling probably wrong, sorry Leslie) writes that the three Christian streams - Catholic/Orthodox, Reformed Protestant and Evangelical need each other, each has a special gift to offer. (He ties their gifts to each's particular understanding and relationship to the Trinity).

SCM comes out of the Ecumenical movement - a movement dreaming of Christian unity - and Newbeggin was instrumental in envisioning the World Council of Churches, as was the SCM's world federation.

Sorry for teasing you about your 'Anglicans have too many rules' comments - sometimes I get defensive. The irony (given my last exchange with Chris in the previous post about rules!).


Sabrina said...

Ditto on the ritual loving, Bre. I grew up Catholic, and after leaving the Catholic Church due to some theological concerns...I threw liturgy, tradition, Mary all out the window. During my 2nd year of Bible school we had a liturgical service once a week, and my heart was stirred as we lit candles and sat in silent reflection, as we prayed prayers that people hundreds of years before uttered. It was a process of making space for my heart to rest...I still love it. And I still have a soft spot for midnight mass in a big Catholic church. There is something holy about it.