What the church does with its creeds and its doctrinal tradition, it flattens out all the images and metaphors to make it fit into a nice little formulation and then it’s deathly. So we have to communicate to people, if you want a God that is healthier than that, you’re going to have to take time to sit with these images and relish them and let them become a part of your prayer life and your vocabulary and your conceptual frame. Which, again, is why the poetry is so important because the poetry just keeps opening and opening and opening whereas the doctrinal practice of the church is always to close and close and close until you’re left with nothing that has any transformative power.
His entire conversation with Krista Tippett is riveting. "The Prophetic Imagination," a good episode to listen to this time of year.
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
While watching this short video clip of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople ordaining Metropolitan Elpidophoros Lambriniadis to be the bishop of Bursa, you can hear the participants exclaim Axios! But what does it mean? It’s a Greek word (ἄξιος) that translates to mean something akin to “He is worthy!” and is shouted during the ordination of Eastern Orthodox bishops.
Día De Los Muertos, in Memory of Lost Loved Ones
by Susan Leem, associate producer
Today is the final day of Día De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Celebrated in Mexico and many other parts of the world, people gather together to remember and honor loved ones and ancestors who have died. The holiday is connected with the Roman Catholic holidays of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day, as it occurs on November 1st and 2nd. The face-painting as skulls helps to overcome a fear of death as a natural part of the cycle of life.
About the image: Here, a woman dressed as La Calavera Catrina (“The Elegant Skull”) celebrates at a Dia De Los Muertos Festival in Los Angeles. (photo: Rob Sheridan/Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
Iron-Ringing Strengthens Traditions and Bonds Among Canada’s Engineers
by Shubha Bala, associate producer
For five years I’ve been anticipating the day when I would get to iron-ring my cousin — a tradition bestowed on me by my older brother when I graduated from the University of Toronto, and on him by his older cousin when he graduated college. In 1925, six engineers at a university in Montreal performed the first Ritual Calling of an Engineer. Herbert Haultain, a engineering professor at the University of Toronto, conceived of the idea of a ceremony because he “felt that an organization was needed to bind all members of the engineering profession in Canada more closely together. He also felt that an obligation or statement of ethics to which a young graduate in engineering could subscribe should be developed.”
Haultain recruited Rudyard Kipling, then living in Canada and already known for his respect of engineers, to design the ceremony and oath, the details of which remain shrouded in secrecy. Kipling later said of his creation:
"The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with
the simple end of directing the newly qualified engineer toward a
consciousness of the profession and its social significance and
indicating to the more experienced engineer their responsibilities
in welcoming and supporting the newer engineers when they are ready to enter the profession.”
Since then, new engineering graduates have performed this ceremony in schools all over Canada, and Canadian engineers all over the world have been spotted by the iron rings on our pinkies. The importance of this ceremony, I recently realized, is not in the oath as much as it is in the community that is forged through this unchanging ritual.
On February 5, I went to the University of Waterloo as my cousin’s “temporary warden”. We temporary wardens get the special job of giving our loved ones their iron rings. It’s primarily sisters and brothers ringing younger siblings, parents ringing kids, and one special warden, who himself participated in the ceremony in the 1950s, ringing his grandson.
The obligation ceremony is short, and the details kept secret out of respect for the tradition. About 200 students and a handful of guests took our seats in the auditorium. We were the last of six groups of engineers to participate in the ceremony this year.
It opened with an enacted dialogue, symbolically acknowledging how new engineers must be humble and aware of their lack of knowledge — their learning begins now. The warden hosting the ceremony read a passage from the Bible.
Next, the new students read aloud their iron ring obligation. I turned to my cousin and placed the iron ring on my cousin’s right pinky, her working hand. For her, for many of us, this was a bigger moment than graduation itself.
Now, as obligated engineers, we listened to a recitation of Rudyard Kipling’s poem "The Sons of Martha," which is based on the biblical characters Martha and Mary. As engineers, he describes, we have chosen a life of serving others.
The ceremony, written in the early 1900s, is full of Christian (and male) references. And it is written with an assumption that engineering is only composed of physical disciplines. Although this isn’t without controversy, I felt that it was precisely this ritual, left in tact, that connects people with the community of Canadian engineers. Other older engineers I spoke to said that the ring itself, while an important symbol, didn’t mean that much to them during their career. But the ceremony was an important tradition. After all, how often do you get to participate in something that people 80 years ago recited in the same way, word for word?
About the image: a new iron ring is displayed on an engineering text book (photo: Elisa Prajogo).
Estranged on the High Holy Days
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
A 2008 Tashlikh ceremony is performed on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota. (photo: GSankary)
We’re now on the other side of the Days of Awe — the ten-day period starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur. This year I participated in a Tashlikh ceremony for the first time since my childhood Hebrew school days. Tashlikh (also referred to as Tashlich) is a ritual of reflection and repentance where people throw shards of bread gather into a flowing body flowing water, symbolically casting off their sins from the previous year.
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, as joggers and power walkers streamed by, I gathered with a few others by a lake in Minneapolis to recite prayers and sing songs including one of my favorite melodies, Avinu Malkeinu. Later that evening, a larger group of mostly strangers assembled for a Rosh Hashanah potluck featuring sweet kosher wine and home-baked challah. I learned about both of these events online and decided to show up even though I didn’t know anyone. With my family back on the East Coast, I didn’t want to experience the High Holy Days alone.
To break the ice, we introduced ourselves along with the name of a Jewish food that shared the first letter of our first name. When my turn came, I couldn’t think of anything. The group rescued me with "noodle kugel." I wasn’t the only one who got stuck. A Unitarian woman needed the group to brainstorm a Jewish food for her too.
The experience of these rituals surfaced a mix of emotions. It was nice having a place to go on Rosh Hashanah where I was received with openness and warmth. And yet, I didn’t feel exactly at home. In theory, I feel like I should experience a meaningful bond with other Jewish people based on the fact of our shared Jewishness but, in practice, it’s not necessarily enough.
I didn’t grow up reciting prayers or regularly attending services (or even eating noodle kugel for that matter, although my mother makes a mean matzoh ball soup). I’m embarrassed by my hazy recollections of the rituals and prayers and my inability to read Hebrew, much less make out the transliterations. I know that no one is judging me, but it’s difficult to feel estranged in situations that should be like a kind homecoming.
Gangs are the effect of ineffective communities. Somebody dropped the ball, whether it was the family, the church, the schools…
—Juan Pacheco, a former gang member who leads Barrios Unidos, an alternative gang movement
This article from Discovery News does a good job of introducing gang alternative movements and touches on tattoo-removal as a “reverse baptism,” using smudging as part of ritual and ceremony, and programs to reorient and reintegrate youth into local communities.
Any advice on other voices participating in these movements that we might hear from?