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The Power of Ceremony

I am just home from a weekend trip to Birmingham, the city where I was born and raised. It’s not often I get to go back – life gets so busy! But my visit was for a reason that I wouldn’t have missed for the world; to attend the Ordination ceremony for my oldest and dearest friend, Jo. In a friendship spanning nearly 45 years, we have stood by each other’s side at so many important life moments.

The venue was the gorgeous St Philip Cathedral in the centre of the city. Oddly, in all the years I lived in Birmingham, I had never actually been inside. On taking our seats, I was able to spend time just absorbing the beauty of the building and the meditative effect of the choral music.

I’ve attended so many ceremonies over the years both personally and professionally. However, an Ordination ceremony was a first for me. Although Jo and I are at the opposite ends of the faith spectrum, sitting in that beautiful place, watching my best friend make a deeply personal commitment to her faith, I was struck by the power of the ceremony and the rituals involved, not just for Jo and her fellow Ordinands but also for those of us there loving her and supporting her as she began this new chapter of her life.

You see, I think ceremonies have such a simple power to them in being able to bring about deeply powerful emotions and connections in a way that few other things can in such a complex, often fragmented society. Ceremonies are a shared experience with those involved - regardless of their faith, background, sexuality etc- united in one simple thing – love!

It was this that struck me most as I watched and listened to the ceremony unfolding around me. Jo, kneeling at the altar, receiving her blessing from the bishop, affirming her love for God but also dedicating her life to ‘agape’ – selfless love for others. Me, and the rest of her friends and family, standing with her to show our love and support for her and reminding her that we will be by her side as she begins this new chapter. I am not a Christian. But, in that moment, I was stuck by just how powerful it is that love weaves its way through every human ceremony whether it is religious or not and how it enables us to experience a unity within ourselves and a connection with others.

Looking around, it was so wonderful to witness such a diverse group of people being united in different ways by one single thing – love. It is love that enables ceremonies to heal, to transform, to take us beyond what we ever imagined we might be.

And it is love that is the ultimate power of a ceremony.

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