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Planning Rites of Passage

from “Changes”

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly at work in creation, renewing and nurturing human beings through all stages of life. Changes: Prayers and Services for Honoring Rites of Passage is a beautiful collection of fresh, new services and prayers, addressing a breadth of pastoral needs long neglected in most Christian traditions. It is ideal for family, home, and church use.

How does one go about planning a rite of passage? With your worship committee, discuss the following questions:

Who?

  • For what person or group is this rite being prepared?
  • Who needs to be included and invited, and how?

What?

  • What is the purpose of this rite?
  • What needs to happen in it and through it? Using the plainest, most everyday language will help the rite communicate simply, clearly, and effectively.

How?

  • How and where will the people gather?
  • What should members of the community bring to the celebration?
  • Will there be a meal following?
  • After this rite, how will life be different for the person in transition and for the community?

The Gathering

  • Will there be a procession, whom will it include, and what music (dancing, drumming) will be appropriate?

The Collect

  • What Collects or prayers will introduce the Ministry of the Word? Will they be selected from Changes or written for the occasion?

The Ministry of the Word

  • Will this include Scripture readings, extra-biblical readings, stories, memory sharing, or tributes? Who will offer them?
  • Will there be a homily? Who should speak?
  • If a Eucharist is part of the celebration, what Gospel reading will be chosen?

The Presentation and Examination

  • Will there be a presentation of the person in transition?
  • How to tell what led to and preceded this transition, and what is being sought through it (e.g., healing, commissioning, rededication, thanksgiving)?
  • Should the person in transition declare in her own voice her intentions, hopes, and new commitments?

The Action

  • How will the person be blessed, named, commissioned?
  • Who will do the blessing / commissioning?
  • Will a formula from this set (Changes) of rites be used, or will something be written for the occasion, and if so, by whom?

The Prayers

  • Will one of the forms for the Prayers of the People included in these rites be used?
  • Or will a form be chosen from the Book of Common Prayer?
  • Or will prayers be written for the occasion? If so, by whom?

The Peace and, When Desired, the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

In most of the Rites of Transition, where a Eucharist is celebrated, this Proper Preface will be appropriate.

From day to day, from age to age, throughout our lives in this world and the next, you show yourself to be eternal Love, giver and sustainer of all goodness and joy; and so, with all the saints of every generation who are ancient in faith and young in hope, we join to sing your praise:

The liturgy continues with the Sanctus, “Holy, holy, holy.”

How do you celebrate rites of passage in your congregation?

ChangesChanges: Prayers and Services Honoring Rites of Passage (Church Publishing, 2007) is an approved resource of  the Episcopal Church. It includes prayers for the transitions to childhood, prayers and rites for the transitions of young adulthood, prayers and a rite for the transitions of midlife, prayers and a rite for the transitions of elders, prayers for national service, and prayers and a rite for remembering the departed. 

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