|The plastic flamingos that live outside of United Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut are a great example of telling the story without using words. The flamingos carry a humorous message on their bellies in case they are stolen. Their attire changes frequently, based on the season.|
It is said that actions speak louder than words. Protestant churches practice two sacraments: Baptism and Holy Communion. Participation in these sacraments, according to tradition, involves offering an "outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace." Sacraments are the most important rituals that we practice, but other rituals commonly practiced in our churches also communicate our values. Some churches ask worshipers to stand during certain parts of worship as a sign of respect. Some congregations turn and face the cross while singing the traditional song known as the "Gloria Patri." In most churches, the offering is brought to the front of the church and prayers of thanksgiving are offered over it. While these rituals are not sacraments, for some church members it just "doesn't feel right" if these parts of worship are changed or omitted. This is because part of the power of a ritual comes from repetition. Doing the same things (or the same kinds of things, such as singing hymns) in more or less the same order on a regular schedule makes people feel good. It's just part of being human. Also, apparently the older we get, the less variation we like in our rituals. The problem is, the old rituals don't speak to younger people the same way they do to older people. And without younger members, churches die.
Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
- 'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,