If you’ve been to church lately, you might have noticed that immediately following Celebrations and Sorrows, I often say something like this:
“May the gratitude and celebrations among us this day become a blessing to us all, and may the concerns and sorrows of each be carried in all our hearts, a burden shared become a load lightened.”
You might find this language a little stilted and more formal than you usually hear in everyday life. And I’d agree. Perhaps we’d say it’s more ritualistic than plain-spoken, which I would then say is right in keeping with the ritual moment it is designed to punctuate.
Celebrations and Sorrows, or Joys and Concerns, or whatever a community decides to call it, is a part of the larger ritual of worship (or the service or the meeting or whatever word one wants to use). And as part of a larger program in the community’s ritual space, it is naturally a bit different and apart from your usual conversation in the aisle at the grocery.
One reason for including something like Joys and Concerns in a worship service in the first place is to allow the important milestones of our individual lives to be spoken aloud and shared with the entire community.
For instance, sometimes we experience such overwhelming joy that we feel compelled to shout it to the rafters so that it can become a blessing to everybody.
Other times, we as individuals suffer such losses that it can be easeful to speak openly about our pain - easeful to get it off our chests, yes, but also helpful in allowing others to share the weight of it all (which is helpful to them and to us).
Both the joy and the pain, if great enough, cry out to be shared. The speaking of both celebrations and sorrows allows the community a deeper role in the life of an individual and vice versa. After all, what is the meaning of ‘community’ if not a set of shared values, including the sharing of experiences both good and bad?
With all this riding on the outcome, we can sometimes approach the Celebrations and Sorrows element of our worship services a bit lightly, as if it’s no big deal, as if it’s only a time for some jokes and a few more announcements.
But I hope it’s more than that. I myself strive to take it seriously, as a time for the bonds among us to be made truly explicit, for the burdens we bear to be truly shared, for our hearts to truly feel the blessings afforded us in our gathering.
If you don’t mind, try it for yourself, see how it goes, and then let me and somebody else know what you think.
See you in church,