The Role of Ritual

Yesterday was one of our “Mid-Day Dialogues of Faith” at UST Law School. As regular readers will remember, each of these dialogues takes a single theme and explores it from the perspective of several Christian faith traditions. In the past, we’ve dialogued on subject that include the value of creeds, on intercession, faith and works, and heaven, hell and purgatory.

The theme for yesterday was The Role of Ritual. In addition to myself, the speakers were Mark Osler (currently Episcopalian, with roots in the Anabaptist tradition) and Chato Hazelbaker (Evangelical Christianity). As we usually do, each of us spoke for a while and we then opened it up for broader audience participation.

Of the three of us, Mark expressed the most hesitation about ritual, although each of the three of us acknowledges both the potential positive power of ritual to aid in our transformation as well as the danger that it be mindless or hypocritical. I was particularly struck by Chato’s opening, which distinguished Evangelical attitudes toward ritual, sacrament, tradition and discipline – distinctions I’m not sure are drawn as clearly in Catholicism. The broader discussion after our brief presentations raised some good issues about the distinction between ritual in an individual and a corporate capacity and the challenges for those unfamiliar with the rituals of a faith tradition.

You can access a recording of the dialogue among Chato, Mark and me here or you can stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 31:51.)

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