We visited a very traditional Church this morning and I became aware of the soothing nature of the old words and prayers. Words like “begotten” jumped out and touched all sorts of emotions and memories. I listened to the beautiful organ as it was expertly played and the tones plus the words of the hymns (some written centuries ago) and wondered. What is it about liturgy, ritual and tradition that we love? The gleaming brasses and lovely altar rails were like a quiet reminder of something more peaceful and whole than the frantic scramble of my preceding weekday existence!
As we knelt to receive Holy Communion it felt as if the whole place was light and full of love and we were connected with centuries of people before us and those to come. Maybe I was just in a particularly receptive mood but the message for me was clear.
Human beings need rituals and traditions. They heal and comfort us and lend some pattern and routine to our often crazy days. The words from sacred texts seem to have a power like no other and I experience this also when visiting other sacred places of worship.
I often visit our local Buddhist temple and experience profound peace when there and when working in Singapore we love to meditate in the Sri Vinaygar temple or listen to the call to prayer in Arab St (a sound that always resonates right through me and makes me want to fall on my knees.)
Children have such an innocent and naïve approach to spirituality. They love to visit holy places and have a deep understanding and simple faith often denied to us. And yet, in this secular world all too many parents deny their children any of these sacred visits and experiences. Children yearn for the “other” and they respond so deeply when allowed to engage with symbols and their deeper natures.
As we have children of every religious persuasion at our centres (including many free thinkers), we honour ALL the festivals by telling children about them! They love to hear about Lent, Ramadam, Purim etc and we feel it helps them to appreciate the richness of our very mixed cultural identities. We acknowledge the Aboriginal traditional owners of the land at all our sessions and indeed the children are annoyed if we forget to do that!
At all our learning sessions we have a time when our groups come together for our motto, ICE song, turning on of the STAR of learning and giving out of awards. The lights are lowered and we have fairy lights to make this time special. Children often tell special news and we might have a few quiet moments or listen to a visualisation before writing. If EVER we get very busy and this GATHERING time is late. the students complain. They hunger for the special, comforting rituals that help them to feel they belong and matter. It is a special, magical interlude and I am sure it contributes to our high academic success rare. Our teachers so often comment that the work output seems to double after the gathering!
So, let’s listen deeply to our needs and those of our children and establish times when they can interact with the sacred and feel the deep connections that bind us all. Acknowledge special days with simple rituals. Establish a gratitude time with your family at meal times where each person holds a special “gratitude stone” and shares one thing for which they are thankful that day.
Mark the changing seasons with a simple nature tray on your kitchen table and above all take the time with your families for quiet contemplation- whether that be in Church, Temple, Mosque or simply in a forest or at the beach.
This spiritual yearning is part of the human experienced and we all need the deep healing and comfort that comes from contact with the sacred.