February 12, 2022

I recently led a workshop on rethinking rituals at Phillips Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While planning out the class, I asked my colleague and friend, Professor Allie Utley, what she thought those attending might want to hear. Without hesitation, Allie replied, “I think we are all needing to hear a word of hope.”

Well, isn’t that the truth. Two years into this global pandemic, just when we all thought we might be emerging from the COVID cave, omicron arrived. It seems like such a setback, and we wish to make sense of this moral and cultural chaos. We miss “normal” and question what that really even means anymore. Loneliness, depression, despair, anger, frustration, and hurting are still very tangible realities. We yearn to anchor ourselves to something or someone. 

Yet, in spite of these facts, I told my colleagues and I tell you, dear readers, there is reason to hope.

I know. What a crazy statement to make. But I would know from my vantage point out here in the “non-churchy” world. I would know as someone who provides rituals for the spiritual-not-religious, the non-spiritual, as well as the religious.

Let me tell you how I know: Love never stopped. People never stopped falling in love, never stopped hoping for and planning weddings. Central Ceremonies never stopped working during this pandemic. Our calendars are fuller than they’ve ever been. 

Hope, love, and community aren’t things we need to create. They exist in and of themselves. And contrary to headline news, we are finding them – and tapping into them. Every wedding, every birth ceremony, every housewarming, and even every memorial ceremony is a ritualistic act of hope. Each music festival, football game, loaf of  fresh-baked bread, or tea ceremony provides a pathway to hope. Each ritual – whether it has spiritual overtones or is more secular in nature – is a way to resist the loneliness, anxiety, and anger that surround us. Each ceremony is a small act of rebelling – by truly acting out and living into the idea that hope is alive, love is bigger, and connections not only matter, they are happening in real time, right now, all around us.

Eighteen months into the pandemic I wrote a blog post naming my own uncertainty, my own frustrations and fatigue, my own struggle with making meaning out of something that seems so meaningless. My message at the time? Keep going. So we did. We kept drinking our morning tea or coffee. We kept our sourdough starters alive. We kept exercising. We kept to our rituals – whatever they were – without knowing where we’d end up. 

But here we are. And now I can tell you what we were doing all that time: mining hope, unearthing love, digging up and dishing out connections and community. Congratulations. We are hope. We are love. We are community. Well done. And keep going.