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Rituals Matter for Christians, Congregations

One of the reasons that rituals are so important is because they mark seasons of change. We remember change by recalling the ritual. Someone once said, “We give ourselves permission to change only through the form of ritual.” With that in mind, should we have more rituals?

Most congregations mark entrance into the kingdom of God with a baptismal service. Most congregations also celebrate the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. Others conduct footwashing ceremonies or practice fasting. Re-enactments of the Last Supper or Hanging of the Green Advent services are highlights of the year for other congregations.   <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Rituals help us remember the significance of occasions. They also remind us of God’s presence in our lives: 
“See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to occupy. But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deut 4:5, 9).           
Rituals are important events in the lives of families. Marriages and funerals are key rituals in the lives of congregations. Some pastors hear the warmest and sincerest tones from their parishioners in the words, “He sure preaches a good funeral,” or “She sure performs wonderful weddings.”

One of the reasons that rituals are so important is because they mark seasons of change. We remember change by recalling the ritual. Someone once said, “We give ourselves permission to change only through the form of ritual.” With that in mind, should we have more rituals?   
Last month, I celebrated 20 years of marriage with my wife. As a part of the celebration, we instituted a new ritual in our household. Upon the recommendation of one of my good friends, our family now has a blessing cup.  
The purpose of the blessing cup is to celebrate or remember key events in our family. On our anniversary, we dedicated the cup with our two children. Once dedicated, any member of the family may initiate its use. 
Rock Travnikar’s book The Blessing Cup: Prayer-rituals for Families and Groups contains mini-worship services for several special occasions. They include: 

  • Celebrating a birthday
  • Embarking upon a vacation
  • Beginning a new school year
  • Making a profession of faith
  • Announcing an engagement 

The book also contains services for sorrowful events, such as remembering someone who is ill or in trouble, and finding hope out of a natural disaster. Services for seasonal events of the year such as Advent and Lent also are included. 
I recommended the book as another way of honoring God at significant moments in the life of the family.   
Jeff Woods is executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Ohio.
Buy Travnikar’s book now from Amazon.com.
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