She was my great grandmother, Canceda Reed, responsible for my patent leather shoes and annual Easter bonnet. She is the one who made sure I was properly prepared for Saturday afternoon church teas in the basement with mints, butterscotch and a balled up dollar in my second hand purse.
“Sit up chile you are in the house of the Lord, no slouching, no talking and no chewing gum.” She knew me well, a mouth so full of bubble gum, no way to really close it. My brother and I giggled. A lot. She hushed us with pursed lips and a wink.
She prepared meticulously for first Sundays, donned in her uninterrupted white reaching for my white gloved hand out the door and up the street we would go, white uniforms everywhere, filling the northbound 4th and Cottage Grove bus in Chicago. There was lots of humming as she held my hand in her lap all the way to West Point Baptist Church. On first Sundays, we were invited to the table.
This is why ritual is an intimately shared experience with community. Ritual is full of memories connecting us to something larger than ourselves like when we had to strain our necks and to look up at the world as someone held our hand. Ritual is an experience that conjures your former, present and future self to co-mingle and join forces.
Rituals hold the stories of our families and communities that bustled during the holidays and grieved together in remembrance of those gone before us. Ritual is the intention to strengthen community, be still, reflect and to come out clearer and more connected with others and yourself than when you first went in. Ritual is something old, something new, something borrowed, something you. The old You that remembers; the new You that hopes; the borrowed You that gives much to others; and the You that pioneers into tomorrow.
Rituals are byproducts of experiences, religious or not, a marker of time, it’s Sankofa – an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana. The literal translation is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”
During this time of pandemic much is at risk of being left behind, what will you bring forward remembering the old, the new, the borrowed, the you?
Rev. Nannette E. Banks’ personal motto is “It is through the power of the spoken word and active hand that we can begin to build uplift and heal.” She has engaged in ministry and learning across a myriad of contexts around the world including Kingston Jamaica, Cuba, South India, South Korea, Turkey, Jerusalem, Cairo, London, and Barranquilla. She is an ordained minister within the United Church of Christ and is a member of Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, Illinois. Reverend Banks is a people and poetry lover who believes in the power of worship and the sacraments to liberate and set free all who are marginalized and oppressed: for the table was set in the presence of my enemy! Her most recent essay “This Is My Body,” was published in the Presbyterian Outlook October 2018 issue. Nannette serves as the Vice President of Community Engagement and Alumni Relations at McCormick Theological Seminary where she is also pursuing a Doctor of Ministry Degree. In addition to a Master of Divinity degree, she holds a Masters in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Aurora University. She is a prayer warrior and firm believer in the idea that “God is, therefore we are!”
Rev. Nannette’s words and ideas will serve as inspiration during Nicole’s upcoming webinar — Reinventing the Holidays, Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 1 PM ET. This webinar will help you and your family to come up with even more meaningful gatherings than ever before in this year of COVID-19 restrictions. Register now.