Rites of Passage

October 13th, 2011
This article is featured in the Rites of Passage (Nov/Dec/Jan 2011-12) issue of Circuit Rider

A sixteen-year-old kneels, driver’s license in the palms of her hands, as words and gestures of blessing and prayer are extended to her.  A veteran who is an amputee carries the Light of Christ into the sanctuary where church members, friends, family–and his surgeon—have gathered for worship.  A woman on her sixtieth birthday tells stories of a mentor in each decade of her life, lighting a candle for each, and then one is lit to honor the wisdom she will hand on to future generations.  A man with degenerating eyesight sits surrounded by family, friends, and pastor, and ceremoniously hands over the keys to the car amidst prayers of both lament and thanksgiving.  

All of these, and countless more, are stories conveyed in one of the richest sessions that I am honored to teach as I train leaders of worship—that of rites of passage.  Besides celebrating the more common rituals of baptisms, marriages, and funerals, we dig deep to identify the liminal, and often unsettling, moments of people’s lives where the church can contextualize the passageway with the Good News of God’s possibilities.  And there always comes a moment when the class pauses in reverent awe of the privilege we have of being present at the most important moments of people’s lives.

My hope is for you to explore “making ritual rich,” as I like to say.  Too often we move through established rites of passage without giving them the spiritual weight they deserve, and we neglect to use our imaginations in addressing the various other rites of passage through which our communities move.  The Latin sacramentum connotes an in-breaking of the Holy.  The church’s role is to facilitate deeply meaningful ritual that sacramentalizes a myriad of transitions, acknowledging the ever-present Holy in this amazing journey of life, from first breath to last.

About the Author

Marcia McFee

Dr. Marcia McFee, PhD, is the Creator and Visionary of Worship Design Studio, an online resource that provides read more…
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