Every January our congregation has a Circle of Life service. Fellow congregants tend to have the following thoughts on this:
1. They completely avoid the service and sleep in.
2. Have no idea it is happening and just show up.
3. Have a baby that is being dedicated/named and are very excited to have them welcomed into the congregation.
Except for reason 3, it is a shame that this is what the service has come to mean to a lot of our congregants. It traditionally has a low turnout. The service, though, actually has quite a few components. For example, we honor anniversaries, job transitions, major goals accomplished and those who have died in the previous year. When my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary a couple of years ago, I was excited to stand-up. These are accomplishments and should be honored by the congregations - by people we care about and who care about us. I find it to be one more way that we can connect as a group - a way to be there for each other, through all of life's ups and downs.
While I was sitting in the service, I was disappointed by the overall lack of reverence and celebration these events should have incurred. It felt like a canned presentation that lacked a real personal touch. It was like the ministers showed up and read the required scrip. I know that may be a little harsh, but it is how I felt. We are a large congregation, a lot of things happen. I know they tried to contact people who had babies, but beyond that, there was little effort made to really acknowledge what people did/happened to them throughout the year. It was a bit pathetic when they asked people to stand for the generic categories, and there was hardly anyone there. Additionally, they cut some of the things they usually acknowledge. For some of the anniversaries, roses were handed out. After the second service, the lead minister still had almost a dozen left. What does that tell you? 1. He has no idea what is happening to his congregants and completely over bought (my personal thought) or 2. Twelve people to-be-honored overslept (doubtful).
If done well, Circle of Life services have the opportunity to be a great time of reflection and inspiration for a congregation. I love the idea of honoring all the events that have affected my fellow congregants' lives. It brings us closer and encourages a greater understanding of each other. If done well, people would come. They would see it for the value it has and want to be part of of it. I hope next year much greater thought is put into this service and it is not relegated to an afterthought.