Crossroads: The importance of rituals

Rituals have value: Uniting Church minister Rev Michele Lees. Photo: Cath Grey Photo by Cath Grey

Recently I have been conducting more than the usual number of funerals.

These have been for older members of the church who have lived wholesome lives, and it has been easy to celebrate a life well lived to a grand age.

With the large attendance at these funerals, I have been thinking how important it is for members of the community to honour these well-known people by attending the person’s funeral service, and even though many of the attendees are not church goers, they are happy enough to come to church for a funeral.

It is important for many of us to publicly show our respect for someone we have admired, and to engage in a public form of saying goodbye.

We join with others, we celebrate the person’s life, we commend them to God, we mourn their leaving and comfort each other.

In community we gain strength from one another.

Rituals are important to us for all the milestones of our lives.

There is often a public celebration of the birth of a child; this can be a baptism or thanksgiving service.

When a person comes to a personal Christian faith, we can celebrate with a service of confirmation or baptism.

The service of marriage publicly celebrates the love two persons have for one another, and then if a marriage is not successful a service may be conducted which acknowledges its end.

This can help all to move on.

Rituals can often be as simple or as complex as we like.

We may go to a graveside to spend a moment remembering someone we loved.

We may place a flower or a memento there as a symbol of our love.

We may light a candle in church or at home for someone who is ill or having a hard time, and we may conduct a simple service in our backyard for a pet that has died.

It often helps in our grieving or celebration to commemorate a life event with an action and maybe some words, and sometimes with others.

Many rituals connect us with something greater than ourselves.

For the believer in the Lord God, a ritual can help centre us on God and discover that God consoles our troubled self in that act of the ritual.

For the Christian, we remember the love shown to us by God in Jesus, who was prepared to die for us that we may live out our days in a personal relationship with God.

And for the Christian who shares in the community of a church fellowship, the spiritual bond with other supportive members can be a balm for our being.

Never disregard the value of rituals, no matter how simple they are.

Rituals seem to be an innate part of human nature to mark an event in some form.

Embrace the value of a ritual to enable you to travel through life in the most meaningful and supported way.

— Rev Michele Lees, Minister, Echuca-Moama Uniting Church