understanding ritual

Today I get to co-officiate my first inter-denominational wedding.

Well, that may not be completely true.  There have been plenty of folks from different protestant and even different Christian backgrounds who have married under my authority.  But each couple chose to go with the Methodist order and flow and style… their traditions weren’t so important, or different, that it made a difference.

But today’s wedding will be in a Catholic church, with a Catholic priest and I doing the ceremony.  I’m preaching and reading and praying, and he’s generally presiding and taking care of the vows.

I have to admit that going into this wedding I wasn’t sure what to think.  I have my own authority and traditions and ways of being that are being set aside for this particular ritual.  In my church we don’t normally hold the gospel in such high respect and honor.  In my church we don’t typically bow before the altar and the cross.  It’s not better, or worse, it’s just different.

As someone who is outside of these traditions, they feel a little unfamiliar as I do them, but I am also hyper-conscious of why we are doing them.  I understand the respect and honor and submission involved in these ritualistic acts.  And that makes them beautiful to me. Yet I also understand that just as ritual acts in my own tradition become rote and familiar that we sometimes take them for granted and go through the motions without any remembrance of why we are doing them.
This experience makes me want to go back with an open eye and look at every action of our typical Sunday morning worship.  When do we stand and sit?  When do we make motions?  What is the purpose of our acts of worship?  And then to talk about them… To spend a few weeks or months, or maybe at least one Sunday every month reminding folks as we worship what we are doing and why we are doing it.

“Let us stand together as we hear the gospel to honor the words of Jesus.”

“Let us bow our heads together in prayer as we surrender ourselves to the power of God at work among us.”
“Let us sing with exuberant voices as we give thanks for these blessings God has given us.”

A few words make a world of difference.  And they might be enough to jar us out of complacency and to truly worship.

1 Comment

  • Songbird

    July 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm Reply

    Katie, I love this post! I'm going to feature it at RevGals' Wednesday Festival. Thanks for these thoughts.

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