A very thoughtful Friday Five this May Day, touching on ritual as a part of our faith experience:
1. Are ritual markings of birth, marriage and death important to you?
They are, which is why I'm sad that they're so diminished/devalued these days in the popular culture. And I think excessive, over-the-top extravagance and personal indulgence of bad taste (either in an attempt to be hip and ironic or because one doesn't know any better) is a kind of devaluement. I'm sorry, but people who take marriage seriously as a celebration of a sacred bond of love and respect don't get married by Jumpsuit Elvis in a drive-through chapel in Vegas. Yes, I'm a mean stick-in-the-mud with no sense of humor...on this topic. As stepmother to 30-somethings, I sometimes mourn the aridity of that generation's ritual life -- of their sense of the Sacred touching the touchstones of the seasons and of our human lives.
2. Share a favourite liturgy/ practice.
I get a lot out of praying the Daily Office, even in a thinky, non-full-body way sitting at my laptop. When I take my turn having an office day at church, I think that I am going to take my show on the road and use the sanctuary for this purpose. If anyone happens to be there and wants to join me -- all the better.
3. If you could invent ( or have invented) a ritual what is it for?
I'm not sure that there isn't already a ritual for any event or condition I can think of. But right now, sitting here, I'm thinking that we need more rituals related to people's employment, since so much of our time and attention is invested in our work. I think retirement is a tough transition for people, even those who've longed for it for years; it might be an interesting exercise to create a spiritual ritual launching a new retiree into a new life of possibility.
4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan / ancient festivals? Have you done this and how?
As some long-time readers know, once upon a time I was what I'd call an agnostipagan. I have a fondness for celebrations that, like May Day, have their roots in the pre-Christian festivals of Europe, just as I have my ethnic roots in that place. So I have very little patience with Christians who feel compelled to eradicate everything that may even have a hint of pre-Christian spirituality from Christian practice or the Christian calendar; because that isn't authentically who I am, or who they are either. On the other hand, I think it's possible to overly romanticize our pagan past -- my German ancestors may have had some quaint, evocative ritual celebrations of various kinds, but they also did things like strangle and drown sacrificial victims in sacred lakes as gifts to their deities to help keep the crops growing. Overall, though, I'm more alarmed by the pagan values implicit in the recent Pew study finding that self-identifying devout American Christians seem to be more tolerant of government-sponsored torture than the population at large than I am about Christians wanting to celebrate springtime and harvest and the circle of the year.
To me a real weakness in the Church calendar is its disassociation from the cycle of the seasons; I'd like to see more ritual affirmation of the created world as a good gift of God in our worship year, even if it makes the neo-Gnostics and neo-Puritans nervous.
5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be?
I like celebrations outside, and I like them to involve food, friends and fellowship. Pick a reason to celebrate!