This is a ritual of caring (or, if you like, praying) for one another, couched in terms of struggle and hope. Part 1 will take a few minutes; Part 2 takes longer -- up to ten minutes, if your gathering is large. Both are intended to unfold in a meditative way.
What you'll need:
- a Holding the Hope card (PDF) in every order of service
- baskets or another means of collecting and then redistributing cards
Part 1 (near the beginning of your service):
Around the world, and for thousands of years, members of our human family have found ways to say: "You are not alone. Others have journeyed the place where you find yourself, and we journey with you now." There are many ways for us to give one another strength, courage, and love. The slip of paper in your order of service is how we’ll do that today. This is an exercise of care, trust, and vulnerability: to name, on paper, a struggle in your life and the hope that lives inside of you as you struggle.
Don't write your name on your paper, but know that your hope will be read out loud later in the service -- by someone other than you (so try to write as clearly as possible). Use the back of the paper, if you wish, but be brave enough to answer these two questions:
- In my life, right now I'm struggling with...
- In that struggle, one thing I hope for is...
Allow a few minutes for the writing to happen. It can be helpful to play music or otherwise encourage people to do this without talking. You might collect the papers along with the offering, in separate baskets, or otherwise have them passed forward.
Part 2 (later in the service):
Redistribute the papers, so that every person who filled one out has now received someone else's paper. You might say, "If you happen to get your own, please give it to me to mix back into the stacks that are being passed around."
In this congregation/community, we make one another brave; we give one another peace; we hold the hope for one another. As theologian Paul Wadell says, “Hope has to be seen to be believed. It has to be made visible. It has to be something we can feel and touch. We are called to be persons who embody hope for one another. We have to be each other’s partners in hope.”
This is our way of being partners in hope: you're holding someone's struggle, and their hope. Take a moment to read those words. You don't know who wrote them. This struggle and hope could belong to the person you most admire in our community; they could belong to the person who annoys you most! Those words might have been written by the person sitting next to you. Take those words in and offer up loving kindness to the unknown person who made themselves vulnerable.
After a moment: Let us now be each others' partners in hope. Please read out loud only the hope written on your paper. After you read it, all of us will respond "We hold the hope for you."
The reading of hopes can happen informally, as readers remain seated or stand at their seats. Lead the congregation in the collective response "We hold the hope for you." When it seems like the reading has come to a close:
Please take that piece of paper with you, and put it somewhere so you'll encounter it again a few times this week. When you do, imagine that unknown person and their struggle, and send them your loving kindness. Keep holding the hope for them, all week long. (If, for any reason, you don't feel up to that, please give me your paper so that I can hold their struggle and hope in my own practice this week.)
Let us move forward, our lives and hearts interconnected in life-giving ways, grateful for this community of vulnerability, truth, and hope.