A year and a half ago I posted the 3rd of what would have been five articles. I got waylaid!
Rituals: Rituals symbolize the beliefs, archetypes, behavior patterns, and ideals of a church. Rituals are collective activities that do not serve a pragmatic purpose but that the church considers socially and even spiritually essential. Rituals are carried out for their own sake. - Kevin Ford "Transforming Church"
How does this work? To re-establish using Trabuco Pres as an example when I was there - let me suggest a common practice of coffee, donuts, and conversation following worship. This is a ritual repeated in many churches. This ritual is repeated weekly, year after year. It is not religious, but it is done religiously.
One of our mission partners was the Markus Church in Plauen, Eastern Germany. We had many exchanges between the congregations over the years. While we were visiting with them, we were having brunch at our pastor-friend's home. The group consisted of our friend, the assistant Pastor of the Markus Church, her husband - Pastor of the Paulus congregation, our team and some friends from the Markus Church. In the conversation our pastor-friend sighed and said, "I wish we could have our people stay around after church and enjoy a time of fellowship and coffee, like you do at Trabuco." Our response was, why don't you? The response was swift - "Because the women all have to go home and make "klossel"!
We didn't understand. The explanation was forth-coming. A traditional German wife would go home on Sundays to make the mid-day meal. It consisted of "klossel", a dumpling, served with gravy and meat and potatoes and vegetables. Apparently it took some time to get it done, and the women would leave quickly and not linger at church so they could get the meal done.
At this point our friend's husband chimed in, "I don't get klossel!" The response was quick and to the point, "I work on Sundays!" The retort was "My mother made klossel." Now we had the makings of a good debate! It went back and forth for some time, then finally our friend's husband pounded on the table declaring, "Klossel is Christian!" At which point the room erupted in laughter.
As funny as it sounded, they finally got to the point of the "klossel" ritual. It was that "family food" trumped "congregational fellowship". I can only hint at what it meant about the church's code. Perhaps it meant that centuries of Christendom had made that Sunday meal as much church as anything. You could unpack the values in that and probably get close to writing a piece of the congregation's code. Maybe strengthening the family meal time would be a better strategy for church transformation than trying to get people to "hang around"? Maybe the idea of family could be extended to others in such a way that the Sunday meal was shared regularly with other families? But you can see what a ritual is and how it shapes the church's code.
What are you rituals? Not merely describing them, but what are the stories associated in them. Those stories will add to your understanding of code. They will be consistent with themes that emerge from your recounting of the myths and heroes of your congregation.
What is your coffee hour ritual? What is your klossel?! (pronounced - kloo-zel)