Life Cycle Celebrations of Humanism: Puberty-Between Birth and Marriage, by Carol Wintermute

As I mentioned earlier, we have an end of the year celebration in May at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis that we call “Rites of Passage day.”  We did it for the first time last year and intend to keep it as an annual celebration.  We had written a Humanist curriculum with developmental goals for each year, but had not incorporated in our program a way to acknowledge those special times of maturing and significant points in the growth cycle.  The Rites of Passage celebration was designed to fulfill this purpose.

We are of course concerned with the typical events that our culture honors such as birth, graduations, marriages, and death.  But that does leave out a lot of life’s transitions and passages that go unheralded.  We are interested in focusing on some of these lesser marked events in this Rites of Passage ceremony.

Traditionally we have child dedication ceremonies included in a winter assembly and also in the spring.  This year we included it as part of the May Rites of Passage program.  We are fortunate to have among our members a very active young couple.  They feel such a strong commitment to the Society that they chose the annual fund drive dinner as an occasion to announce their impending parenthood.  The future father spoke eloquently about his intended financial support of the Society because he viewed it as a larger family in which his smaller one would be nurtured.  From this clue we asked him to talk about the transition for our celebration.

After we dedicated our children, both newborns and children not previously recognized at the Society, we called forth all the children who would be entering public school in the fall to receive a special chalice lighter’s badge, symbol of Unitarian values such as hope, truth, freedom, love, justice, reason etc.

Next we recognized the group of children who were leaving elementary school to attend either a middle school or junior high.  We call this recognition, the growing up year. The kids are asked to talk briefly about an experience they had during the year that was a maturing one for them. In this day and age, the kids that leave elementary school face the situation that the innocent days of childhood are over and the toughening world of junior high is ahead.  We are anxious to show them support and to help them feel capable that they have learned much about relating to the world and are fully equipped to continue the maturing process.  They are awarded our commemorative medal necklace, honoring 500 years of Unitarianism.  During this year they supposedly have learned something of the heroes and heroines of our tradition.