Actions and rituals

On this page, there are a number of ideas for actions and rituals that could be used with, for example, the climate lament ideas on this site.

Please try to use materials with a view to their recyclability, compostability and sustainability.

Mourning Armbands. There is a long tradition -now largely only seen on sports’ teams when they are remembering the death of one of their own- of wearing a black armband to signal a bereavement and to show one is in mourning. So the basic idea is simply to wear one for extinct species or habitats. Make your own and customise it. Suggestion: to add to it a simple symbol or a word or two to make it clearer what is being mourned. Further development of this idea: to have a making workshop with prayers for the activity and to ‘bless’ the wearing of the completed armbands. The activity of donning the armband can be a significant moment to reflect and hold before God the grieving and the cause of grieving.

Sackcloth and ashes. The biblical phrase “repent in sackcloth and ashes” is still sometimes in use as a byword for recognising one was wrong about something. It harks back to times when these things were part of rituals expressing grief and/or repentance. Sackcloth could then, be used as an armband (see the armband section). Smaller pieces could be used as badges to be added to a coat or jacket. It is simple to use a safety pin to hold it in place. The suggestions about armbands could be brought to bear in the making and ‘commissioning’. One of the things that could be added might be an ashen symbol (maybe a cross maybe something else). It might be helpful to use a mix of oil and ash ( ) to make the symbol. Other materials could be used, of course.

Imposition of humus &/or ash. ‘Imposition’ is a traditional church term which means ‘putting on’ -usually a forehead or hands are in mind and it’s commonly used for the act of smearing ash-oil mix on a forehead on Ash Wednesday. This idea is development of that. Humus is, of course, the dark soil-building material ( rather than the chick-pea paste!

Anointing and smearing. See also the imposition of humus/ash section. Other materials -symbolic crude oil (apparently vegetable oil with red or dark food colouring can work for this). Symbolic blood has also been used. It can be applied to people or objects.

Prayer wall. For many people the go-to mental image of this might be the so-called Wailing Wall which is a foundation wall of what remains of the Temple in Jerusalem and is a place where Jewish pilgrims go to pray. One of the activities there is to place a written prayer into the cracks between the stones. Some places emulate this way of praying using small pieces of paper and a suitable wall (sometimes a pinboard or netting is used to ‘receive’ the paper).

Tears -symbolic the psalmist writes/recites of God storing our tears in a bottle. This could provide an action. An eye dropper is an effective way to deliver drops of water (symbolic tears) if some precision is needed about where they land. If not then fingers may well be suitable. Symbolic tears could be dropped into a bottle (try to find an attractive one which is transparent to allow the ‘tears’ to be seen. A flask or a caraffe might be suitable rather than a fairly standard thin-necked bottle. ‘Tears’ could be dropped onto objects or words or pictures as a way to specify symbolically the occasion of, or reason for, lament. People could be invited to moisten a cheek below their eye to symbolise tears. The dropping action could accompany particular words in a liturgy and be done in such a way as to be seen by most people present or it could be even more fully participatory and members of the congregation could be invited to come to where the tears may be dropped to drop them themselves.

Tolling a bell. Most people in western cultures would associate a single bell tolling slowly with an occasion of mourning, and this association is the basis for this symbolic suggestion. It could be done as a standalone action, perhaps with a symbolic number of rings. It could be done to accompany particular liturgical words.

Slow walk. Funeral processions often have a slow walk. This could be used and is most effective if done silently. It is probably most effective to be done with participants wearing sombre clothing and/or mourning armbands and with some people carrying some kind of symbolic object to make evident the occasion for mourning.

Penitential parade. This could be similar to the slow walk though there might be other actions accompanying it and perhaps a litany being recited as the walk takes place. It is recommended that if a litany is used, that the call and responses be clear and fairly succinct to enable onlookers and over-hearers to get a sense of what it is about. This might be an action that would suit a bell tolling or a unified action.

Cairn-raising. This is a traditional funereal practice in some parts of the world -placing small rocks and large stones over a body. The association with remembering and commemorating is widely understood and so inviting people to help to build a cairn to remember extinct species, for example, could be helpful.

Composting griefs. This in simple terms would involve writing griefs, words of lament onto a compostable material (using a non-toxic writing/drawing medium) and burying them or placing them into a compost bin or similar. The symbolism could be taken to be a recognition that our laments can become something that may in due course nourish life.

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