Rituals at Home–Small Group Gatherings

As churches begin to consider what worship post-pandemic will look like, many are looking at gathering in smaller groups (often at people’s homes) before coming together as a whole.

The beginning of a new group and new ways of being together is an excellent time to establish some rituals that will not only help bond the group, but also help to keep people safe.

I am a huge hugger and absolutely believe that the hug will be back…but not right now. The season in the life of the church is a great time to adopt the ritual greeting of our Eastern religion kindred and begin to greet one another with a bow, rather than a handshake or hug. We can offer the peace of Christ to one another or adopt the term namaste--which means the light in me recognizes the light in you.

A hand washing station can also be turned into a ritual. Just as it was a sign of hospitality in the ancient days to wash travelers dusty feet when they arrived at your home, you can create a place for visitors to wash and sanitize their hands as they enter the gathering. If you don’t have a sink with soap and water that is easily accessible, you can create a welcoming hand sanitizing station right inside the door.

It’s a good idea to establish a ritual that marks the beginning of “official” group time–something that signals the shift from casual conversation in to a time of reflection, sharing and study.

Whether you begin with introductions, prayer requests or good/bad things that happened that week, a practice that works really well in small groups is mutual invitation. A leader starts and calls on a person in the group to share. That person then calls on the next person and so on until everyone in the group has had a chance to share.

It’s also a good idea to have a ritual that signals a close to your time together. A closing prayer is always appropriate, but you might want to consider adding a common benediction that the group recites together.

Some examples:

May the Lord watch over me and thee while we are absent, one from another.

God be with you all until we meet again.

Let us go out to be the church and share the love of Jesus in the world.

May we be strengthened for the journey ahead and be doers of the word of the Lord until we meet again.

As we embark on new ways of being the church, may we start off with rituals that feed our souls and protect our health.


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 us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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