March 22, 2010
About a year ago, I led a Transmission focused on prayer. The scripture from the Daily Office happened to be Psalm 23, so as part of the ritual we created our own versions of of the psalm. I was really moved by the personal psalms that came out of this activity, so
I thought I would share. Without introducing Psalm 23, ask participants to write down answers to the following questions:
- What is your metaphor for God? Do you think of God as a father? a friend? a rock? the color purple? What image makes sense for you when you think about God?
- Where does your soul find rest?
- Where does God lead you?
- What are you afraid of?
- How does God comfort and protect you?
- How does God bless you?
Then give participants a paper with lots of space between the following lines:
The Lord is [blank]
I shall not want.
God makes me [blank]
God leads me [blank]
God restores my soul.
God leads me in paths of righteousness for God’s name’s sake.
Yea though I walk [blank]
I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
Your [blank] comfort me.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Each blank corresponds with an answer to the question prompts in order. Give participants some time to craft their psalm. Invite people to share aloud. If you try this with your faith community, let us know how it turns out!
March 13, 2010
Usually when we talk about ritual in Transmission, we take it pretty seriously. We talk about it in a formal sense, as a performance that transforms someone or something from one state to another, as a space that creates community, as a moment where the usual boundaries can break down. It’s big and dramatic. It’s a wedding, a communion, a house blessing. It isn’t brushing your teeth. That, we like to say, is a habit and not a ritual.
And yet, I find myself thinking a lot these days about that habitual kind of “ritual.” The small and homely kind. Brushing your teeth, reading the paper, kissing someone good night and good morning. It seems to me that these things that we repeat – week by week, month by month, year by year – transform us too. They give shape and order to our lives. They make us into the
people that we are becoming.
As the calendar rolled over to 2010, my brother and his girlfriend stayed with me for a couple of days. On Sunday morning over a leisurely breakfast, they pulled up their Sunday websites to share with me: PostSecret and the New York Times Weddings & Celebrations. As we looked over shoulders, the silence was punctuated by sighs, laughter, and the occasional groan. I was moved and surprised. My brother and his girlfriend are completely secular people, and yet their Sunday rituals still carry a sense of setting time aside for something special, sacred even. They bear witness to other people’s secrets. They share in other couples’ joy.
It made me think about my own habitual rituals. Are mine transforming me into a person of empathy, compassion, and joy? Do they shape me into the person that I would like to become? I’ve joined my brother and his girlfriend in reading secrets over Sunday breakfast, and added a dose of dance and poetry. Then I go to church, for the healing of the ritual and the shaping of the habit.