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Caring Liturgies

The Pastoral Power of Christian Ritual

by Susan Marie Smith

Publication Year: 2012

Caregiving practices in churches often center around listening and giving counsel, making referrals, and creating support groups for specific needs. In Caring Liturgies, Susan Marie Smith proposes that Christian ritual is both a method and a means for helping people through liminal times of transition and uncertainty, even vulnerability and fear. It teaches readers to recognize the ritual needs of fellow Christians and thus create post-baptismal rites of passage and healing that might strengthen and support them in the fulfillment of their ministries.

The book extends the usefulness of denominational "occasional services" books and other resources by suggesting ways to build a rite around a central symbolic action, pointing out issues of ritual honesty and ethics, and identifying skills and attributes necessary to preparing and leading a rite. Numerous narrative examples help to flesh out the principles and illustrate the key argument: that rituals are necessary means to enable human growth and maturity, both through times of suffering and times of transition, and that ritual-making leaders are central to the ongoing health of the church.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. vi-7

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pp. vii-9

It takes a village to raise a child and to midwife a book. The community, care, and critique of others brought this book into being. I give thanks for all who shared their liturgical labor with me: Miriam, Sharon, Paula, Gayle, Stephanie, Trish, Amy, Justin, Josy, Anamonica, Betsy, Dennie, Wendy, Cat, Nancy and Carrie-on, Margaret, Julie, the Fischer family, Tom, David, Jim and Frederick, S. Moya, Heath, Karen, Erin, Janiece, Kinga Reka...

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pp. 1-18

Christians care deeply about their worship, but many would be dismayed to hear that worship is an instance of the broadly human practice called “ritual,” because the word ritual l has mixed connotations, some of which are infelicitous. For some, it implies meaningless, incomprehensible, or rote action: “empty” ritual...

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1. Creative Rites

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pp. 19-42

We begin by taking up the challenge of perceived conflict between the great story of creation and redemption and the person’s story, and presenting creative rituals as the way to make a deeper and effective connection between those stories. There are two kinds of effectiveness. First is the theological/doctrinal, which is how...

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2. Ritual Midwives

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pp. 43-64

The way is creative ritual. Now, who should pave the third way? Who should be part of creating a rite fitting the person’s need and the church’s theology? The answer is a community. None of us is as smart as all of us, as the saying goes, and ritual work calls for wider wisdom than one person alone can invoke. Making...

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3. Metaphors and Symbols

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pp. 65-88

Having named “what” (creative rites) and “who,” we now ask “how.” The third principle for creating rituals opens up the way symbol and metaphor engender sacramental action so that an intimate bond can be made between the person’s own story (need, pain, vulnerability, joy) and the great story of creation...

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4. Ritual Honesty

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pp. 89-108

Ritual making is a serious enterprise. Because rituals are so powerful, a cavalier approach can fail to accomplish the rite’s life-giving goal, exacerbate difficulties, or even cause harm. Christian ritual is a rope intertwined with four cords: pastoral, theological, ecclesial, and ethical. What is so artful about ritual is that all these...

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5. Holy Sacrifice

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pp. 109-122

Sometimes, simple is better. Sometimes, a supper of Chinese takeout enables the focus to stay on the conversation and the relaxing enjoyment without frenetic distractions like cleaning the kitchen, taking freezer inventory, remembering a recipe. Lowering tensions and expectations has become an art form (for example, “come as you are,” “be casual,” “whatever”). In many circumstances...

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6. The Paschal Mystery

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pp. 123-138

This book has so far offered five principles for creating rituals of healing and transition so that churches can enable those baptized into Christ to grow and mature in his likeness. In the current post-Holocaust and now post-Christendom time, it is critical that every person baptized into Christ, at whatever age, be tended and supported to become ever more holy, alive, and Christ...


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pp. 139-146


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pp. 147-151

E-ISBN-13: 9781451424454
E-ISBN-10: 1451424450
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800697365
Print-ISBN-10: 0800697367

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2012