As a Cambridge Alumna, I get CAM – the Cambridge Alumni Magazine. The latest issue arrived about a week ago, but I didn’t get round to reading it until today. It’s CAM’s 21st Anniversary, and so there’s an article discussing coming of age and ritual more generally and the following quotation stood out to me:
“… the shaping of lives and communities through rich and deep rituals that have been developed and tested over centuries is essential [to seeking wise/responsible forms of faith]. If you like, rituals might be seen as the DNA of a habitable tradition of understanding, imagining and behaving. It’s like a condensed code that shapes ongoing life in line with a wisdom that goes way back in history but can also undergo all sorts of new developments and mutations, good or bad.”
(Professor David Ford, quoted in CAM issue 64 page 21)
I like the idea of viewing ritual as a connection to the past and a living tradition. At various points in the past (including on Facebook a couple of days ago) I’ve seen people make comments about how they want to ‘just do what the Bible says, not what Man has created’ (paraphrased). I think that misses the point. Yes, absolutely, one shouldn’t do something just because it’s always been done that way; I’m all for a bit of skepticism towards the established order. But I have come round to thinking that often, these traditions probably persist for hundreds of years because they work for people. And so maybe they deserve our consideration.