Tuesday, August 12, 2008

healing transitions through life

Life is full of transitions. Historic church sacraments have provided some sort of map for these, but our world is now much more variegated and we need ways to mark miscarriage, drivers license, movement to university, house moving, retirement etc. Which requires the church to be creative and flexible in their pastoral care and ritual making. It’s a whole area of ministry needing to be explored.

One of my best pastoral moments ever was working with a family over a 4 year period. First they requested a home blessing of their first born and together we worked out a unique service. Second was the home blessing of their second born and again we worked out a unique service for that.

Only to find out that between the two homegrown rituals, they had decided to take their words seriously. Since they had asked for God’s help, they had better explore God. So they asked for a third ritual, their baptism!

In my hunt for resources, Abigail Rial Evans, Healing Liturgies for the Seasons of life, has proven very helpful.

The book is collection of a wide range of rituals e.g. adolescence, work, retirement, disabilities, for mental illness, for hospitals, against racism for criminal justice. The rituals are drawn from a wide range of Christian traditions. I would never use them exactly word for word, but the do provide a pastoral and theological checklist, and a window into how other’s have processed life’s events. It’s a fantastic resource, which was most useful in the miscarriage service I did last week.

This book on rituals sits well alongside Olive Fleming Drane, Spirituality to Go, which has less specific words, but lots more general ideas.

For more in being creatively pastoral through life, you might also find this – on transition packs helpful.

Posted by steve at 06:08 PM


  1. You are right – it is something that needs to be explored. Its great that the family you spoke of were able to ask for what they needed, in other cases – as in with miscarriages- many feel that if there isnt a known ritual that they must grieve in silence. There is also a book called ‘Jesse’ that could be of use by Chris Pringle that deals with miscarriage and stillbirth – quite a beautiful book with images, poetry and bible verses. Keep up the good work, Jack.

    Comment by Jack — August 13, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

  2. Steve, I would recommend Benedictus by John O’Donnohue, which was written to help people deal with transitions in life and written by a poet and philosopher. In my view it is excellent.

    Comment by Gary Manders — August 14, 2008 @ 11:51 am

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