Rituals at Home–Graduation

The mandate to stay at home and the cancelling of public gatherings is robbing us of much-needed rituals. So each Tuesday, Doubting Believer will bring you rituals to celebrate, mourn and mark special occasions from home. 

Most of 2020’s high school and college graduates will not have traditional graduation ceremonies this year. It is still an important transition in the life of young people, and it needs to be observed and marked as such. Here is an at-home ritual you can do with whoever is sheltering-in-place with you and your graduate.

Note: these are merely guidelines and suggestions. Please use, adapt and adjust to fit your context and honor your graduate.

Things you need:

  • A single candle
  • About five objects that symbolize the time spent in high school or college
  • One symbol of what is next–college, military service, new job. If it’s not yet known what is next, use a symbol of the Christian faith to demonstrate trust in God for the future.

Have the graduate place the five symbols on a table surrounding a single candle.

Light the candle. (I like to light a candle when beginning any ritual. It not only symbolizes the light of Christ, but there’s something about the light from a single candle that signals that there has been a shift in the space, and that something is about to happen.)

Open with a passage of scripture. Here are some suggestions.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

–Ephesians 2:8-10 (NRSV)

Happy are those who trust in the Lord,
    who rely on the Lord.
 They will be like trees planted by the streams,
    whose roots reach down to the water.
They won’t fear drought when it comes;
    their leaves will remain green.
They won’t be stressed in the time of drought
    or fail to bear fruit. —

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (CEB)

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 

Philippians 1:3-6 (NRSV)


We gather together to honor and celebrate the transition of _______________ from student to graduate. We recognize the work, the effort and the spirit that went in to arriving at this day. We give thanks for God’s guidance and the encouragement of friends and family and teachers along the way. No one arrives at this place on their own, but today, we celebrate the accomplishment of ___________________ and revel in their joy.

Play or sing a favorite hymn/song of the graduates.

As the song comes to an end, remove all the high school symbols and place them gently in a box or other safe place where they will be preserved and protected, and replace them with the symbol of what is to come.

Have someone offer this prayer.

God, we celebrate this transition that will shape the days ahead for ___________.

May the path before ___________________ be an ever-unfolding adventure, filled with new experiences, unexpected joys and surprising revelations.

May the roots strengthened by faith and family and friends give power to wings that soar to yet-to-be-discovered heights.

Abiding God, lead _________________ to places and people that encourage growth in faith and in love. Gift him/her/them with gladness in all that he/she/they do(es). Amen.

Close with scripture

 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Romans 12:11-12 (NRSV)

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:8 (NRSV)

Extinguish the candle to make the end of ritual.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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