In 2018, I left my career as a church pastor to bring my love of ritual and ceremony to the wider world. After working in church institutions for eighteen years, I knew the power of ritual and ceremony but felt confined by the religious framework. My vision was to work with people of all spiritual and secular world views to create unique, personalized ceremonies to mark life transitions.
This vision became a reality when Rites of Passage launched in 2019. Since then, I've had the honor of working with dozens of people to create personalized ceremonies to mark life transitions - from weddings and funerals to preschool launches, house warmings, coming of age ceremonies, and divorce and healing rituals, among others. I can't believe I get to do this creative, meaningful, work!
This is a huge question since life transition ceremonies encompass such a broad category of possibilities. Yet, like weddings, the celebrant's role is to hold space for the transition, give voice to the emotion, and, through symbol and metaphor, ground the participants in moment. This looks very different in a healing ceremony, for example, than in a wedding. Still, the basic elements are there: an honoring of the past, an embrace of the present moment, and a turning toward the future with hope. In this way, I believe well-done ceremony (of all kinds) encourages growth, healing, and transformation - for both the direct participants and the gathered community.
Life is a series of changes.... big ones and small ones. Some changes we choose and some changes we don't choose. Celebrating our life transitions, the joyful ones and the challenging ones, can help us honor our past, be present in the moment, and look to the future with hope. A celebrant holds space for the transition and, through ceremony and ritual, guides us in crossing the threshold from one phase of life to the next. Whether we are celebrating the birth of a baby, transitioning to retirement, or acknowledging the death of a beloved pet, ceremony and ritual can help us grow, heal, and transform through life's changes.
The past few years have been a whirlwind of transition. I think that we will be reckoning with the enormous changes we experienced for many years to come. The ripple effects of the uncertainty, grief, and upheaval will continue for some time. When the world was shutting down, many people lost access to the rituals that shaped their days. We were also cut off from ceremony as gatherings were canceled. We had to develop new rituals and find new ways to do ceremony which, amazingly, we did in some creative ways. Many things, though, don't lend themselves to Zoom. There is grief in the loss of our regular ways of acknowledging life transitions. My son experienced his last year of college during Covid. It was a very different year - and a very different graduation - than he expected. In the rush to get back to normal, I am concerned that we - individually and as a society - aren't taking the time to acknowledge what we lost and celebrate our resilience. Ceremony and ritual can help us do this.
There is great opportunity for wedding celebrants to include life transitions in their services, but it takes intention. Every wedding celebrant I know loves to get to know their couples! Those couples will, inevitably, experience other life transitions. Welcoming children, purchasing a home, starting a new job, losing a parent are all common life transitions. If a celebrant builds a life-long relationship with their couples, it would be natural for them to seek support and guidance for the other transitions in their lives. I've worked with some of my clients two, three, even four times in honoring different life transitions. Educating your couples about your services and building and maintaining that relationship is key.
Mohandas Gandhi said, "Learn as if you were to live forever." My grandmother was a great example of this. When she died suddenly of a stroke at 87, on her nightstand was a dog-eared 500 page book about the life and work of Einstein. I seek to live in her example as I continue to expand my knowledge and perspective through study. Starting my own business has been an amazing learning experience. There was so much that I didn't know that I truly had to approach it with a beginners mind. I am so excited to meet the students of the Celebrant Academy because I know they are coming to this work of ceremony and ritual with with fresh perspectives and enthusiasm. It will be a privilege to share what knowledge I have as we all learn from each other!
Learn more about our Life Transition course and easily apply online!