Searching for thin places, Routine and rituals

July 24, 2012

Routine and rituals

We have a routine. All of us do. But here on Iona, we follow a weekly routine, and we are not particularly comfortable when that has to change. We can and will be flexible, in all sorts of hospitable ways, but in the end, we enjoy our routine.
On Friday morning we bid adieu to our guests of the week, and then return to our work areas for meetings, getting our house in order for the next set of guests and a little social time without the pressure of caring for guests. On Saturday afternoon, everything needs to be ship shape, as new guests will arrive, we will prepare meals, have welcoming time, worship and other guest events. Sunday is our big worship service in the morning, followed by our main meal of the day during lunch, activities, events and then an evening meal of soup, then worship. Monday and Thursday some guests will go to Staffa, to see the Fingeals cave and the puffins, while others will do other things. Tuesday is pilgrimage day, and guests will do the long or short pilgrimage, Wednesday is a day of planned events and activities, then Friday we say goodbye and start all over again. That is routine.

Within the routine there are rituals. When guests are going to Staffa, we have to move the lunch meal up 30 minutes. On pilgrimage day we have to provide them bread and fillings to make sandwiches to take with them. Tuesday evening’s meal is typically a bit heartier because of the physical demands of the pilgrimage. When you are on pilgrimage there are rituals you perform, such as selecting a rock at Columba's bay and throwing it into the ocean to symbolize releasing the issues you are carrying.

We have rituals in our jobs that may or may not be common. Typically when we make scones for tea break, yes it is a real thing, we ritually sit down for tea each day, the last little bit of dough that can no longer be cut into a scone is shaped into a figure eight. When I work the morning shift, my ritual includes going around the outside of the building to check my freezer and refrigerator temperatures before going into the kitchen.

Routines and rituals can be important, but when they become the most important thing we need to be careful. When doing the thing becomes more important than what we are doing or who we are doing it with, we need to be careful. That's where the Pharisees got themselves in a bit of a bind. So let's hold them close, but not tightly, and our routines and rituals can continue in our thin place.