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Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Coming-of-Age Rituals in the EC
A few days ago an extended family member “became a woman” (began menstruating). Her parents and sisters celebrated this by having a pizza party for her.

Hearing about her recent ascent into womanhood led me to think about my own experiences at that point in my life. My family didn’t have enough money to buy pizza, but I was given a small gift and the changes taking place were treated like a positive, healthy event.

I also thought about the lack of coming-of-age rituals or celebrations in the church. Many Catholics and Anglicans are Confirmed in their early teens, but I wasn’t able to think of any other rituals, rites of passage, or celebrations that the church has developed to commemorate the passage from childhood to adulthood for young teens.

Does your church do anything to mark the transition between childhood or adolescence and adulthood? How did your family or church react to you "becoming a woman" (or "man," for the male responders)? Has anyone heard of any churches that have developed such rituals? For those who have or are planning to have children, what would you like to see the church do in this area?

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posted by Lydia at 2:45 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


24 Comments:


  • At 10/17/2006 03:00:00 PM, Blogger Sally

    No we don't but this is something very close to my heart, we need to find ways to mark transitions... I suspect this is something we have lost in a rational age!

     
  • At 10/17/2006 03:29:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    Sally can you share why you feel its important to mark this kind of transition?

     
  • At 10/17/2006 04:54:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    there is nothing that I know of in most christian circles. Granted the Jews have bat mitzvah's, hispanics have quinceneros, and in the south a lot of my friends still had "coming out" parties - but there wasn't much in the church.

    I remember being scared to death to admit to my mom I had started my period (I was 10). I felt like I had done something wrong - maybe it was all the Judy Bloom books, but I didn't feel affirmed in my physical body.

    I love the idea of confirmation - or making ones faith one's own. And to affirm our body by tying it into puberty would be helpful.

     
  • At 10/17/2006 05:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Lydia - I agree that this is an area to which the church needs to give more attention. I have no immediate experience with liturgy or rituals surrounding the coming of age transition other than confirmation. You may be interested in the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes by William Bridges. I have found this to be an excellent resource for navigating transitions. Bridges is also an advocate for more formal transition ceremonies. Thanks for your thoughts!

     
  • At 10/17/2006 08:15:00 PM, Blogger Wendy

    Except for the confirmation process that we have in the presbyterian church, we don't do much. Oh, our churches do often have "graduate" sundays in honor of high school graduates.

    In my own family, however, I wanted to mark my daughter's growing up in a meaningful way. On her thirteenth birthday I presented her with a quilt made up of squares prepared by all of the women in her life. Many of them were mentors, teachers, etc. from our churches.

    On the day she began menstruating, her dad and I gave her a dozen red roses. We told her we would one day when she was young, and we followed through ... after saying nothing about it for years. It meant alot ... nothing that anyone had to know about if she didn't want to share ... but she knew.

     
  • At 10/17/2006 08:55:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    Why is 13 a special number? Because one is entering the 'teens'? I'm not sure what we're celebrating or marking.

    As mentioned, some girls menstruate very young (9, 10, 11) -- some not until they are 14 or later. Are we marking menstruation, coming of faith, entering the teens, something else?

    I'm just curious what the rationales are.

    From what I understand many 'confirmations' are simply age related and don't indicate any personal faith committment.

     
  • At 10/17/2006 09:01:00 PM, Blogger wilsford

    i think it is an age thing, but when i was growing up, periods were not talked about. period.

    we did not remark on it when our daughter hit that physical milestone. never considered menstruation to be a milestone.

    i notice that it is very different with the young teenagers nowadays, who seem to have no qualms about recognizing that girls have periods.

    i find this to be much healthier and much more respectful. as far as "celebrating" it, however...to each their own. in our family we view physical milestones as superficial markers.

    that being said, that is our own family value and definitely not a value we would think of imposing on others.

     
  • At 10/18/2006 04:08:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    Nothing in our church, but we have three boys and my husband has instituted a rite of passage in our family. On the summer of their 13th birthday, each of our sons took a week-long trip with dad. These were always some kind of outdoor adventure. They were to be repeated on their 18th and 21st summers. My oldest two boys had an 18th summer trip, but my oldest got married before his 21st summer. My youngest is only 15.

    Their becoming men was celebrated and honored in our family. But, they have a terrific father. I'm sure he would have insisted on doing something similar for daughters. Every great once in a while we both mourn just a little bit for the daughter(s) we weren't given, but we are so incredibly thankful for three healthy sons.

    I think there is great value in this. Mostly what I hear is parents lamenting the teenage years--and, I know, they can be tough--but there needs to be more celebrating. Our kids need to be affirmed as they enter each new era--don't we all?

     
  • At 10/18/2006 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    We don't have anything formal at the church I've been involved with either. However, a couple of years ago, something spontaneous and wonderful did happen along these lines. A teaching pastor and his wife had just joined us. She sent out to the women of the church a very clever invitation to a party to celebrate her official menopause. A small group of us came up with a "croning ceremony" for her, including a starry crown, the gift of a beautiful shawl and her crawling through the tunnel of legs created by all the women at the party. Then she was showered with related gifts, some funny some just very thoughtful. It was a smash! The laughter and symbolic acknowledgement of her transition was powerful. We vowed to keep up the tradition but unless no one else has moved into menopause, I think it is sadly long forgotten.

    Intuitively, I think that such rituals are helpful. I don't know if there are any empirical studies to back it up but I know at least one author, Robert Bly (?) has addressed the topic in a book for men and the need for such rites of passage. Personally, I think I could have avoided some painful mistakes and misconceptions, had I gotten more direction either through such rituals or simply some measure of understanding from the adults around me that specific direction on how to be a healthy female adult was truly needed.

    This leads me to something I have been pondering on again. What are your thoughts about male and female archetypes/stereotypes? What do you believe is considered traditionally female and male? And are they both aspects of each (man and woman) of us? Or are we to strive only for that which is determined by our sex? How do you feel you match up as far such archetypes are concerned? What would you consider would constitute a "healthy" man or woman? How would you imagine that God intended for it to work? I guess I just find these questions really interesting and wonder what you all might think and hope you'll take some time to respond.

     
  • At 10/18/2006 11:04:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Are we marking menstruation, coming of faith, entering the teens, something else?

    Good question.

    I think a good Coming-of-Age ritual would be multi-purpose. It was acknowledge that the young person is growing older and will be an adult soon, it would provide a (sorely-needed, IMO) marker that would help the community to realize that the young person is becoming less of a child and more of an adult.

    Western society doesn't really have these sorts of things. I mean, yes, we can drive at 16, vote at 18, and purchase alcohol at 21...but but our culture really hasn't provided much of a framework for helping it's young people formal transition into adulthood.

    Hope I explained that well. I'm fighing some kind of respiratory bug right now, so I'm a little out of the loop. Let me know if something doesn't make sense. :)

     
  • At 10/18/2006 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    Thanks Lydia.

    Here are some of my thoughts and why I asked. I think (guess might be a good word too as I have no documentation to share. *smile*) the 'coming of age' rituals we tend to think of are very culturally based and are/were in direct accordance to increased responsibilities and transitions in roles.

    In American culture, the teen years presently aren't really marked by an increased responsibility in any formal sense or in any way that is common to the general population. Boys don't begin going out on hunts to bring home the kill to provide food for the family, girls aren't married off or removed from school to tend the home....

    Someone mentioned their boys becoming 'men'.

    How are we defining 'men' (manhood) and 'womanhood'? And where did we come up with these definitions? Is it entering puberty?

    And if so - are we equating sexual development and reproduction with 'adulthood' - and if so....why are we in another thread contemplating the deconstructive nature of the pressure to procreate and wondering where this pressure originates?

    I'm not convinced one way or the other on the whole notion...just probing, wondering, trying to put it all together.

    I guess many girls anticipate menstruation....boys want hair on their upper lip (and more..). Everyone wants to grow up so fast. I don't think we should 'baby-gy' our kids, and indeed, I think we have in the American culture in many ways. I think perhaps though I'd rather honor or celebrate achievements in character or moral responsibility in individuals rather than a collective agepoint.

    I keep thinking of a phrase from "The Incredibles" where Mr. Incredible says "They're constantly finding ways to celebrate mediocrity, while someone who's truly exceptional...." Not that entering puberty isn't a special time, but its a 'common' time.

    Also, as far as 'ceremonies' in the church. A friend of mine shared with me a while back that her girls took part in a 'chrysalis' project at their church, I can't find anything right now on the web about it, but a search did bring up some other intersting projects with that name! Anyway, maybe someone here knows something about that and could share. ?

     
  • At 10/18/2006 05:27:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Our church has done a "coming of age" ceremony for our youth for the last couple years. They've named it "Rites of Passage". It's a weekend seminar with a ceremony on the final night in which the youth (any one 13 or older) go through a double line of adults (this includes any youth that have already gone through the ceremony) and receive a plaque of some sort.

    My husband and I have not yet attended, but from talking to the people who are part of it, the intent and desire is to welcome the youth into the adult church body and attempt to begin buiding a bridge of respect between generations.

    In our church, we separate the children from the adults until they enter Jr. High. So, I think they are wanting to help transition them into the adult population as well as communicate value. Once a student has gone through the ceremony, she has full voting privileges at the annual business meeting and is eligible to be part of a student deacon program starting up next year.

    I really like the concept we're using, but have yet to see a real change in the life of the church as far as ongoing incorporation of the youth. I also realize this is easier said then done and that when I was in high school, I was very content to have some level of separation!

     
  • At 10/19/2006 11:47:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    So when exactly do us guys "become a man"? The timing of a girl's "rite of passage" is a little more obvious. But how would it work for us? Do we just pick an arbitrary age (11, 13, 16?) and say "Now you're a man"? I'm all for rites of passage, I wish I had had more for myself growing up, but I'm just curious as to how we should define it for boys.

    -Mike

     
  • At 10/20/2006 12:39:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    Ok, catching up. Having a cold makes me really grateful for the written word! (i.e. I can communicate without irritating my sore throat :) )

    You may be interested in the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes by William Bridge

    Thanks for the recommendation, andrew. I'll see if the local library has a copy of it (I'm lucky to live in a city that has an excellent selection of library books.)

     
  • At 10/20/2006 12:48:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    How are we defining 'men' (manhood) and 'womanhood'? And where did we come up with these definitions? Is it entering puberty?

    Historically it has been defined by puberty, as that is when most people were married off. Granted, we are entering puberty earlier now than we have in the past thanks to better nutrition and medical care. To give one example, the average age of a menarch a hundred years ago was about 16. Now it's what, 12?

    What alternate definitions of manhood/womanhood would you recommend?

    are we equating sexual development and reproduction with 'adulthood'

    Yes. For better or for worse this seems to be the societal definition of the word.

    and if so....why are we in another thread contemplating the deconstructive nature of the pressure to procreate and wondering where this pressure originates?

    Could you rephrase this? I'm a little unsure what you're asking.

     
  • At 10/20/2006 12:50:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    Once a student has gone through the ceremony, she has full voting privileges at the annual business meeting and is eligible to be part of a student deacon program starting up next year.

    That's very cool, Amy. I wonder if it will encourage them to stick around after graduation? I've read some pretty dismal statistics on the percent of teens in the church who continue to be part of it after they graduate from high school.

     
  • At 10/20/2006 12:52:00 PM, Blogger lydia

    So when exactly do us guys "become a man"?

    Drew (my husband, for anyone who didn't know) thinks it's tied up with one's first nocturnal emission.

     
  • At 10/20/2006 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    and if so....why are we in another thread contemplating the deconstructive nature of the pressure to procreate and wondering where this pressure originates?

    Could you rephrase this? I'm a little unsure what you're asking.

    ------------------

    We're talking about celebrating a transition of the bodies function to be able to bear children in this thread and in another thread there is discussion lamenting the pressure on women to bear children and 'how did that seep into our society?'.

    I am wondering if the two aren't related and if they are oppositional ideas.

    (and maybe I'm just rambling, but the two things seem to be somewhat related ideas)

    I'm finding all the posts and thoughts quite interesting and I appreciate you bearing with my random and sometimes wandering thoughts. :)

     
  • At 10/20/2006 10:31:00 PM, Blogger Amy

    Lydia, those dismal stats are the reason for this "rites of passage". I'm not sure if this program will make a huge difference, but I do see our church trying to bridge this gap. We have an Emerging Generations Pastor who is assigned to this whole process.

    Besides a rite of passage, what are other ways you all have seen churches, or any time of faith community, integrate youth into the fabric of that community? What has worked in your own faith experiences?

     
  • At 10/21/2006 12:42:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    "So when exactly do us guys "become a man"?

    Drew (my husband, for anyone who didn't know) thinks it's tied up with one's first nocturnal emission.


    Maybe... but that's not the kind of thing a young boy usually wants made public. I just can't see having a "First Wet Dream" party. ;)

     
  • At 10/21/2006 06:27:00 AM, Blogger juniper

    I think coming of age rituals are a fabulous idea, but we don't really have or use them. It did occur to me that one of the reasons for the massive drift of young adults from the church is a lack of sense of place. Too old for the youth areas, but don't feel as old as the people in church? This whole part of the coversation underlines the importance of the emerging church -- where to find identity?

     
  • At 10/21/2006 11:00:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    Combining responses here...

    ----
    Mike - I think Drew was mostly joking when he said that...although sometimes it's hard to tell with him. :)

    -----
    I am wondering if the two aren't related and if they are oppositional ideas.

    I can see how they could be oppositional ideas, but I don't think they have to be.

    Most people will be parents one way or another at some point in their lives. I have absolutely no problem with the church affirming this fact. IMO there's a big difference between saying "most people have children" and "you must have children" to the youth.

    One is a statistical fact. The other is often a form of manipulation (again, IMO).

    In an ideal church, "adulthood" would be described in many different ways: parenthood is one way to describe what an adult does, yes. If I was running the program I'd also include other descriptors like education, employment or vocation , missions work, their service to the local community, etc etc.

    I'm enjoying this conversation as well. :)

    ------
    what are other ways you all have seen churches, or any time of faith community, integrate youth into the fabric of that community? What has worked in your own faith experiences?

    This is actually one of the reasons why I posted the OP - my churches did very little in this area.

    One teen in my youth group was trained to be a worship leader by my dad. Incidentially, as far as I know he's the only one of us who still attends a church on a regular basis.

    Some sundays we'd help to unpack and pack up the sound equipment (we rented our sunday morning facilities).

    Every Christmas we'd go caroling with some of the adults.

    But that was about it.

     
  • At 10/23/2006 10:42:00 PM, Blogger Linea

    I lurk around here often, not sure if I am an emerging woman or past the age - if one can be.

    I have some concerns about celebrating a physical marker on the way to becoming an adult. What about the young woman who does not menstuate at the "normal" age or at all? Isn't transitioning to adulthood more about learning how to act and think maturely rather than a physical milestone? In churches that recognise confirmation young people must pass through some kind of instruction. Maybe more emphasis should be placed on the fact that they are becoming adults and that as such their voices will be heard in the church. I liked the idea of the junior deacon training program.

     
  • At 10/24/2006 09:06:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    Hi Lydia,

    IMO there's a big difference between saying "most people have children" and "you must have children" to the youth.One is a statistical fact. The other is often a form of manipulation (again, IMO).>>>

    I agree.

    "In an ideal church, "adulthood" would be described in many different ways: parenthood is one way to describe what an adult does, yes. If I was running the program I'd also include other descriptors like education, employment or vocation , missions work, their service to the local community, etc etc."

    So what exactly might you be envisioning as 'the program'? And again, would this be at a certain age? A 'class' or a weekend retreat type event?

    If its by age, then menstruation would be recognized in teaching, not in actuality (some may not have reached menstruation) and if its by menstruation, do you have any thoughts on what kind of overall impact that might have due to the gap in ages of onset?

     

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