One of the most important obligations of the church is to help its members observe and honor transitions in life. Through rites of passage we ritualize our human experience and make meaning of the unfolding of our lives. Whether it be Coming of Age ceremonies for youths, weddings and unions, child dedications, new member recognitions, or memorial services and funerals, the church must help its members move into new stages of life and self-understanding.
Weddings and child dedications are two of the more enjoyable rituals that I perform as a minister. These two rituals embody “hopefulness” for me and I enjoy working with couples to create these important rites. On the other hand, funerals and memorial services are some of the hardest things I do; yet, they are probably THE most important acts of ministry. The personal satisfaction that I derive from having been able to create a meaningful funeral or memorial service is unequaled.
In planning weddings, I encourage active participation by the couples in selecting material and try hard to craft ceremonies that are reflective of the two unique individuals before me. Marriage or union is the single most significant pledge that we make as adults, transforming in effect, and sacred in dimension.
When preparing child dedications I try to create ceremonies that honor the children themselves and celebrate the families. I also believe that child dedications are important rituals for the entire community. Child rearing within a committed faith community is truly a group effort; it places responsibility on all the adults in a congregation.
Funerals and memorial services are the most difficult rites of passage, and arguably the most important. Death calls us to confront our own fear and measure our lives again eternity; considering the place or absence of God in our lives. Nothing focuses our faith like deep, personal loss. I approach funerals and memorials as primarily acts of ministry to the survivors and feel these rites are of central importance to the church community as a whole. The mourning and honoring of friends and loved ones when they die is essential to our own well being. I believe in working closely with grieving families, both to provide pastoral care and to prepare a meaningful service. We are forever touched by the death of one close to us and I believe that this experience needs to be honored and ministered to faithfully.
I take my responsibility to provide meaningful rites of passage ceremonies to the community very seriously. The ritualized celebration of change reminds us that we are all in the process of becoming someone we are not yet today. I view the function of rites of passage as helping us to reflect deeply on who we are and might become; focus on what lies ahead and what must be left behind; and consider the sacred dimension of life’s changes.
Contained in this section are samples of weddings, a renewal of marriage vows, a child dedication, and several memorial services that I have performed over the years.