The Value of Rituals

By Jim Hartz

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been able to re-engage in some very meaningful events. They were sad, to be sure. Two were committal services and one a “Celebration of Life.” Two related to one particular person who was more like family than a friend since her parents “adopted” me as a young, single soldier back in 1980. The other was someone I didn’t know at all but was important to someone I have done life and ministry with for nearly 15 years. Still, both events were significant in getting me thinking about the rituals in our lives. This is an area that COVID-19 wreaked havoc with across the globe.

I realized after I had gone through them how much I (and we) had missed in the way rituals bind us together as the family of human beings. Here are a few things that I think make rituals important:

Rituals help us remember. Whether a funeral or a sacrament or a birthday party or an anniversary, when we gather we have the opportunity to recall the ways God has been present in our lives, granting success or coming alongside us in sorrow. In them we may honor the sacrifice of a family member, a friend, a colleague, even strangers, and ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rituals help us reconnect. One of the greatest losses from COVID-19 restrictions was the inability to touch family and friends to support one another and to be bound more closely by these shared experiences. For so many, our rituals bring us together to forge or strengthen the bonds that sustain us.

Rituals reveal what is important or meaningful to us. In both private and corporate settings, we give time and energy to the people and the times in our lives that have impacted us and will impact us in the future.

Rituals allow us to recommit to promises made in the presence of witnesses and in ways that bind us to others spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and relationally. In them we more sharply focus our efforts, build community and team and renew our need to be held accountable.

Of course, one of the best things rituals can do is allow us to rejoice. Together we celebrate births of babies and rebirths of the those who profess Christ as Lord and Savior. We gather for weddings and anniversaries, to acknowledge faithfulness to another or to a calling. We come together to witness promotions, new leadership roles and even retirements and other transitions. We become the cheering section for one another, encouraging continued striving and giving impetus for greater impact in our endeavors.

My prayer is that as we emerge from this time of COVID-initiated isolation, we will consider God’s command in Joshua 4 to remember His mighty works and find time to re-engage the rituals in our lives that connect us with the people — and the GOD — we so deeply need in our lives.

Published August 25, 2021

Jim Hartz

Jim Hartz, NAMB Chaplaincy Pastoral Care Manager, provides pastoral care oversight to Southern Baptist chaplains and their families. He is supported in this effort by his wife, Dee, and nine Chaplain Ambassadors.