Ritual Reboot

Balancing Tradition and Change in the 21st-Century Church

Rituals are central structures for common worship, and they’ve certainly been subject to scrutiny, critique—even conflict—and change over the centuries of the church. In this issue of Bearings, our featured contributors, Claire Dixon, a 21-year-old Catholic college student, and Max Grant, a “more life experienced” UCC pastor, share perspectives on the balance between retaining, reframing, and full-on rebooting religious rituals. What stands out for me in these two pieces is how two very different people in terms of age, experience, and perhaps especially religious identification and practice could come to rather closely aligned perspectives on the balance between tradition and adaption in Christian ritual. Their stories unfold in very different ways, but there is a valuing of ritual stability that seems important to both.

Our exploration of religious ritual moves in a visual direction as well. In a remarkable photo essay, Emilio Bañuelos offers striking insight on how religious ritual shapes and is shaped by wider contexts of life in a Mexican community. Emilio’s images in “Born to Believe” tell a story of the ways in which religious practice is entwined with community life, for commercial culture, and other aspects of everyday experience.

And, in our Commentary section, I offer some thoughts on the challenge for religious communities of contributing to a “New Year Again in America.” I’m thinking we’ve got some superpowers that it’s time to bust out as the new year dawns.

Finally, we’ve pulled a special piece From Our Archives to deepen our exploration of religious ritual. Hazel Cherry‘s 2017 article, “Where Can I Run To? Creating Sacred Space as a Black Woman” argues for the need for new, affirming rituals for women whose very being is often dismissed and demeaned within and outside the Church.

Claire Dixon, Emilio Bañuelos, Hazel Cherry, Max Grant, ritual

Elizabeth Drescher

Elizabeth Drescher, PhD is the editor of Bearings and a Consulting Scholar at The BTS Center. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University and the author of Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of America’s Nones (Oxford University Press, 2016), Tweet If You ♥ Jesus: Practicing Church in the Digital Reformation (Morehouse 2011), and, with Keith Anderson, Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse, 2012) and Click 2 Save: Reboot (Church Publishing, 2018). Her commentary on contemporary religion and spirituality has been published in Alternet, AmericaThe AtlanticSalon, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, Religion Dispatches, The Washington Post, and other national publications. She is a much sought after speaker for religious and academic groups engaging the changing religious landscape in the United States. You can find Elizabeth on Twitter @edrescherphd.


Featured Image: karl S, “Balance” (September 5, 2018) via Unsplash. CC2.0 license. Cropped.