Rites of passage are one way that a minister bonds with the members of the congregation they serve as well as the community around us. Child dedications are often a way for family members to meet your church family, and weddings, too. At memorial services and funerals, I'm often told afterwards "I've never heard of your faith before, but this service you gave was so unique that I'm going to check it out when I get back home!" I never know if they do, but it demonstrates that not only are memorial services a way to get to know people who've died in a deeper way, it allows us to practice ministry outside of our normal boundaries.
When a child comes into our life it is a cause for celebration! Of course, children join our families in a variety of ways: birth, adoption and the blending of families are just the most common.
We are a covenantal faith and when we celebrate the addition of a child to our community. It has been my experience, so far, that the congregation makes a covenant with the caregivers of this child in ritual. Depending on the desires of the caregivers (and child if they are old enough) a community promises to care for, educate and nurture. These can equally take place during a normal church service, or be separate events.
Like all rites of passage though, it is vital that this ritual reflect the individuals at the center of this ritual.
When I reflect back on the dozens of couples that I have been honored to join together, their variety is somewhat astounding! Young couples, couples older than me. First marriages, fourth marriage, same gender marriages. Marriages that cost a lot of money and one that was catered with submarine sandwiches and a groom to whom I had to lend a tie. I have seen a lot of different ways to get married. I once was asked to dress as a steampunk Franciscan friar.
I even got married once myself! It was a crazy affair, with two church congregations invited and involved, watermelon instead of a wedding cake, some 350 people. Done in church picnic style with a goal of a zero waste wedding. We still have the ties--his a bow, mine a neck--that I sewed for us.
I have a wedding packet that I share with couples, it contains a bit of a worksheet meant to be a guide. Behind the worksheet are samples of readings that I have collected over the years, to offer people a chance to see what others have done with their weddings.
In the end, though, a wedding is about the people marrying, and it should, of course reflect them.
Becky & Cheri-Kim's Wedding
Jennifer & Steve's Wedding
Memorial services are a great honor to offer. Rarely do the surviving family members have vast experience with death, and so I have developed a packet for these services, also.
Like the wedding packet, a memorial service packet gives the grieving a sample of what happens in a typical service. There are also potential readings included in the packet, with the clear understanding that this packet is offered as a guide, and variation is welcomed.
Typically, I offer this packet to the family and give them a few days to read through it, and then we have the first of several conversations. It is an important step in grieving for loved ones to help prepare a service.
I have done services for people I’ve never met, for families I’ve never met; and I’ve done services for congregants for whom I have great affection.
Like the other Rites of Passages listed here, it is vital that a memorial service reflect the person being remembered to the best of our abilities.