For indigenous communities rituals have always bound their communities together, helped them to celebrate, to mourn and to mark rites of passage and changes in status. It has helped with coming to terms with the joys and challenges of life and with the traumas of loss and death.
Last week we went down to Essex to a nephew’s wedding. Though brought up there, I haven’t visited much in recent years. And while my home turf is superficially similar, much has changed. No longer do you hear the sing-song country accent, but the brasher sound of ‘London over the border’.
The wedding was outside, in a beautiful sunken and secluded garden, with the sun shining. It was a delight to catch up with family who had gathered from Dundee, Leeds and Oxford as well as ourselves from Stockport. There was a sense of family and community. Yet I felt some discomfort.
The groom and his ushers were in formal, waist-coated, buttoned up suits. The bride and her bridesmaids were in flimsy, low cut, dresses. The words may have been saying one thing, but to me, more loudly, the clothes said another – about relationships and the role and status of men and women.
We are no longer restricted by the tribe. We can more or less create what rituals we like. In fact, for a fee, others will do it for us. Whatever we choose, we will be sending signals, however unconsciously, about what we think and believe. It led me to wonder how aware we all are at St. George’s of the signals we give through our rhythms and rituals week by week.