Liturgical Arts & Rites of Passage
The pandemic made obvious what liturgy nerds have long been saying: that worship is so much more than the sermon and that the mind, body, spirit, and all of our senses need to be engaged in worship for it to be truly healing, or transforming. I say that the pandemic made this obvious because trauma-informed ministry teaches us religious professionals that trauma and stress live in the body and, therefore, it is embodied practices and rituals that address unprocessed trauma the best. I’ve attached below a Vespers Service in which I lead participants through a body prayer as well as a ritual on lament and gratitude that I designed for the one-year anniversary of my current congregation moving to online services due to the pandemic.
What’s more, when I think about vibrant, sustaining worship, I think about interactive Times for All Ages and fully multigenerational services. I think about music that crosses all genres and is personal and meaningful to those performing it. I think about deep, rich collaborations with the musicians, religious educators, lay leaders, and youth–where testimonies and talents are shared and worship design is seen as a part of all of our creative and spiritual practices, should we want it to be. I think about services, rituals, and traditions that reflect the full cultural, theological, and generational diversity of our members. I think about worship that looks, sounds, and smells good. I think about services that mark the liturgical cycle and vernal cycle, and worship that makes us want to sing and dance along with it. Come now, let us worship together.
WATCH A Vespers Service, “Recipes for Resilience,” February 4, 2021, First Parish in Needham
WATCH A Christmas Eve Time for All Ages with Roberta Altamari, “Live from our Ancestors: How Unitarians Changed Christmas,” December 24, 2021, First Parish in Needham (Begins at 31:40)
READ Ritual, “A Ritual for Lament, Loss, and Gratitude” for the one-year pandemic anniversary in the Needham-Boston area, March 14, 2021, First Parish in Needham
READ “Your Prayer, before having That Hard Conversation.” I see a part of my ministry as joining together with my colleagues in ministry to help UUs everywhere continue to build our spiritual muscles, refine our spiritual technologies, and develop our spiritual toolkits. That is where something like this prayer for conflict comes in.
Photo: © Surette Media Group
Rites of Passage
There are certain moments in ministry when you, beyond all explanation, get to glimpse the holy, and officiating rites of passage is, often, for me, one of those times. It is a joy and an honor to officiate weddings, child dedications, and memorial services. I have two main goals when officiating any of these kinds of services. The first is to create a liturgy that, in all parts, creates a felt sense of you (your story, you and your partner’s story, your deceased loved one’s story, your parenting story)--from the homily/eulogy to the music to the rituals to even the arrangement of the space. And, of course, to do that, we’ll spend a lot of time in conversation before the service.
And the second is to offer a pastoral, non-anxious presence. In so doing, the great hope is that these rituals can offer exactly what they need to: whether it’s a safe place to process your grief and remember your loved one, a ritual expression of your hopes for your child, or the blessing of the next stage of your relationship with your partner.