Spiritual Practice

Ritual to Affirm & Bless a True Self

Just before this ceremony, we told the story, “Red: A Crayon’s Story” by Michael Hall (which ends with the phrase that this text begins with). We also handed out small vials of bubbles to be used for the joyful bubble blessing at the end.

final page, “Red: A Crayon’s Story” by Michael Hall

We have someone here, among us, who is reaching for the sky.

With respect and joy, with affirmation of belonging, we recognize a member of our community, [Blessand]; daughter/son/child of [parents’ name]; sister/brother/sibling of [siblings’ name]; worthy in her/his/their own right.

Unitarian Universalism is sourced from many traditions. In this particular moment, let us think to the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, wherein, as a sign of someone coming into their fullest self through connection with their deepest source, names changed:

Abram became Abraham;

Sarai became Sarah;

Jacob became Israel;

Saul became Paul. 

Today, we celebrate the new name that reflects a truth long hidden, now revealed. [Blessand], will you please come forward and stand next to me?

[Blessand], this homegrown holy water has been blessed by this congregation year after year, most recently this past September at our annual Water Ingathering.  Will you hold out both your palms that I might touch this blessing to your skin? Will you allow me to touch this water blessing to that place which is home to your heart? 

Releasing the name given to you by your parents, you do not let go of your family. Releasing the gender you were assigned at birth, you do not let go of your life that came before this moment.

Instead, this ritual marks and amplifies the process of becoming and the process of integration – the integration of your whole self, the becoming of your truest self.

As such, this congregation, covenants to honor the you you have always been, yet was unknown to us as a whole. This congregation covenants to honor the you you are declaring publicly and fully today.

By what name shall you be known by?

[Blessand]: _________________________

And what gender and pronouns do know yourself to be and claim as your own?

[Blessand]: I am a _____________. I use __________________ as my pronouns.

Affirming [Blessand] as worthy, and doing so in this faith that proclaims [Blessand], as whole and holy, a faith who celebrates the truth

of who [Blessand], is, I turn now to her/his/their family and invite them to come forward.

[to Blessand’s family]

Will you present your open palms and receive the water blessing of this congregation?

Please encircle [Blessand] as an embodied sign of your love. 

Do you lend your heart, your mind, your spirit, and your body to the becoming of your older child/sibling, knowing her/him/them and loving her/him/them as [Blessand]?

Do you covenant to do what is yours to do to honor, protect, and celebrate her/him/them?

[Blessand’s family]: We do.

[to Blessand’s family] You may continue to surround [Blessand], opening your circle to the congregation.

Affirming [Blessand] as worthy, and doing so in this faith that declares [Blessand] as whole and holy, a faith who celebrates the truth of who [Blessand] is, I turn now to the congregation.

I will speak a series of questions. Then, for all gathered, virtually or in-person, I will invite you to covenant to affirm [Blessand] by reading the words on the screen.

Do you covenant to affirm and call this fellow congregant by the name she/he/they has/have chosen for herself/himself/themself?

Do you covenant to use the pronouns [Blessand] has chosen in her/his/their

presence and absence, recognizing that these pronouns are not a “preference”

and are not optional, but are one of the ways that we affirm and recognize

her/his/their inherent worth and dignity?

Should you misgender [Blessand] (or anyone), do you covenant to practice grace with a simple apology and beginning again with the right name and the right pronouns? Do you covenant to help each other with this, gently reminding someone when they speak mistakenly, receiving such reminders

as gracefully as possible?

Do you covenant to lend mind, heart, body, and spirit to an abundant love that recognizes, affirms, and when necessary, defends, the wide expressions of gender in the whole human family?

Do you covenant to celebrate the joy of this becoming?

Let us read the covenant in unison:

We covenant to call you [Blessand].

We covenant to use those pronouns you have told us are your true pronouns.

We covenant to practice grace and repair should we misgender anyone, apologizing and beginning again.

We covenant to be a place of shelter, protection, and celebration for you.

We covenant to celebrate the joy of this becoming.

We call you [Blessand]. 

We know you as [Blessand]. 

We love you as [Blessand].

When we dedicate a child, at the end of the ceremony there is typically a time when that baby or child walks a circle in this sanctuary, being greeted as the person they are and as the person who has just been newly welcomed into this community.  It seems right for [Blessand] to do the same thing. As she/he/they does/do, I invite you to call her/him/them by name and to greet her/him/them with a joyful bubble blessing.

Here is a video of the ceremony. It starts at 15:50:

This ritual was generated from other similar rituals I found through internet searches. Like this one. And this one. These ones. Or this one in particular, from my Unitarian Universalist colleague, Rev. Fred Hammond. It is with gratitude to the other authors and other creators that they shared their words and ideas, that this ritual might take shape and meaning. If you use this ritual, as it is or adapted in some way, know that you are joining a mighty stream of righteous, loving co-coveners of inclusion and abundant love. I’d love to know that this ritual was useful to you, so feel free to drop me a line.

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