rites of passage

i subscribe to the bible society uk's magazine The Bible in Transmission. this is free-of-charge. there are 4 issues a year. all you need to do is send in your email request to them. go the their website below:


in the latest issue, there is an interesting article by michelle guinness, who was born into a practicing Jewish family, and later became a Christian. she laments the fact that in the christian church, we have thrown away a lot of the good practices that the jewish people have.

for example, in a jewish wedding, there is a canopy placed over the heads of the bridal couple as they take their vows, a symbol of the shared house or drinking from the same cup to symbolize their sharing of suffering and joy together or to stamp and break the cup afterwards to symbolize how fragile their relationship can be etc.

or consider the bar-mitvah and bath-mitzvah ceremonies that the jewish boys and girls go through compared with our confirmation/catechism/baptism services for our youths.

or think about our christian wake and sending -off services compared with those of the jewish people. see this link about a jewish funeral:

read the article by michelle found here as a doc file:


or as a pdf file


the challenge for us Christians is to re-discover some of these wonderful rites of passage that can give more meaning to our christian pilgrimage on earth. as i always tell my students in the OT class, our christian worship services in the majority of the denominational churches are too 'sterile' and devoid of colour, taste, hearing, and smell.

OT worship involves all 5 senses - seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. imagine, seeing the lamb slaughtered for our sins, hear the priest pronounce the restitution of our sins, smell the roast thank offering, taste it with your family members and friends, and touch it with our hands. and all we do in most of our church services is 'rise up' to sing a hymn and 'sit down' for prayer, 'rise up' to sing the doxology and 'sit down' for the sermon etc.


Blogpastor said…
You are right, There is a ritual famine in the church. The great challenge is to tweak old rituals or develop new ones that are relevant and more meaningful in our urban,highly westernized and youth oriented but conservative culture.
anthony said…
what would singapore churches do? any examples?
Blogpastor said…
Unfortunately we are too westernized and very little attention and thought have been given to contextualizing rites of passage.

The Catholics are usually more advanced and daring than us Protestants. This year one church had a dragon dance in church during the Lunar New Year. Just an example though not a rite of passage.
anthony said…
that would still be a good start to think of contextualizing.

the issue of a dragon dance is another tricky one among christians which i think will be divided over the issue. i for one find the western understanding of our chinese dragon faulty. they have equated it with the drakon (greek) of the NT and the serpent in the OT, thus equating the chinese 'loong' with something evil. nowhere in chinese culture and tradition is a 'loong' ever evil. it is a protector of the people and emperor. the emperor wears the 'loong' on his royal regalia because he is the son of the 'loong'. and one can talk some more about the 'loong' on his royal gown. there are different types of 'loongs' - jade, silver, gold etc which signify rank as well as 'loongs' with different humber of toes or digits, again signifying different ranks. unfortunately, some previous missionaries(?) equated this chinese 'loong' with the ancient serpent in the chinese translation of the bible and today we have over-zealous guys throwing and burning every image of the 'loong' they can find inside the house!
Blogpastor said…
Yes it is more cultural than religious in my opinion.
The Singapore 50 dollars note has a dragon pictured in it. I would gladly receive them from any over-zealous Christian.