Going on holiday for the month of August is a big thing in our house. Working 6-7 days a week for most of the year, the chance to escape completely has become very important to us.
The actual process of going on holiday has become surrounded with little rituals. The sense of holiday approaching becomes real each year on a Sunday afternoon in July when we meet in the City Centre for lunch, go around the bookshops for summer reading, and maybe stroll around St Stephen’s Green.
The journey itself has acquired certain features that are repeated each year. We travel from Rosslare, having walked around the car park at the port to savour the reality of the moment. We stop at a Little Chef restaurant at St Cleer’s in South Wales for a meal; when there was an announcement that many of the Little Chefs were to close there was sadness that our holiday traditions might be disrupted! We spend time with my family in Somerset each year before crossing the English channel; during which time we always go to the same coffee shop in Taunton. There are a string of little traditions, each of which seem to be part of the reassurance that we are indeed on holiday, and that for a while there is no need to worry about calls, inquiries, complaints, abuse, or the hundred and one other things that must be dealt with each day.
Rituals are important to us; I think they are important to most people. There are big rituals in life that go with the rites of passage, birth, marriage, death, but many of the smaller rituals that marked people’s daily lives down through the centuries have disappeared. Life has become banal; there are few significant markers to invest moments in life with meaning or significance. One of the beauties of ancient Celtic Christian spirituality was a sense of meaning and significance in moments, even the lighting of the fire in the morning was accompanied by a special prayer.
Churches pay lip service to the idea of God being the God of all moments, but have lost a sense of that reality. Christian worship is very cerebral; God is a God of the intellect and the sanctuary, he’s not a God to thank for the Little Chef or the Taunton coffee shop.
Until we discover a spirituality that reconnects with people’s lives, that makes moments special and invests small things with importance, then the Church will continue to fade away because we have lost sight of people and, I think, we have lost sight of God.