This morning, NPR had a report on “Celebrants USA,” an organization of “Professional celebrants” that designs and officiates at ceremonies of all kinds. The report was about ceremonies of “downsizing,” held when someone loses his or her job because of cuts in the size of a company’s workforce. Celebrants USA’s website introduces the organization as follows: “Celebrants are Professional Officiants who Create Personal Ceremonies to Honor and Celebrate Life’s Milestones: Weddings, Commitments-Gay and Lesbian Ceremonies, Renewals of Vows, Baby Namings, Adoption Ceremonies, Coming-of-Age Ceremonies, Birthdays, Special Achievements, Divorce Ceremonies, Survivor Ceremonies, Rites of Passage, Funerals, Memorials, and Civic and Corporate Ceremonies.”
On the one hand, this is all rather comical. On the other, it points to the remarkable resilience (or resurgence) of ceremonial behavior in an anti-ritual culture. And it’s another sign of the church’s retreat and failure, since most of these rites of transition would one day have been officiated by ministers of the gospel.