My congregation held its annual meeting last night, and although most of you will not care a bit about what happened there or why, I want to raise up the occasion as another good example of the ways in which faith communities ritualize many aspects of their lives together.
The book to read if you want an understanding of why Christian communities should want more ritual, not less, is Susan Marie Smith's Caring Liturgies: The Pastoral Power of Christian Ritual. (I know this is a good book because I helped to edit it. Smiley face.)
A congregation's annual meeting may seem little more than a legalistic or constitutional duty imposed by bylaws.
But, in fact, such gatherings can be -- and often are -- healing, revealing and sealing. They heal by giving opportunities for conflict resolution. They reveal by helping congregants understand more clearly the direction the church's leadership is moving. And they seal by offering members a chance to recommit to the mission of the congregation and, in a broader sense, the whole religion.
Yes, anyone who has been part of a faith community for very long has attended dull annual meetings, which were missed opportunities.
But wise leaders use such occasions to remember the power of ritual and to get members inspired to move into the future to which God is calling them.
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THE PRESIDENT'S ISRAEL TRIP
President Obama is planning a trip to Israel this spring, and there are hopes that it signals a renewed push for an agreement to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There is, of course, no simple solution that will satisfy all parties. But this matter should be at or near the top of any American president's agenda until there's a resolution. (And while he's there, could he pick up a little travel alarm clock I left there last April?)
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online here.