The other day, the seminarian intern who has been at our church for the past year handed over her keys to our new summer intern. We tried to determine whether she was doing this ceremonially or ceremoniously. Our quandary turned into a good learning experience for all involved. Turns out they mean almost the same thing. Ceremonially pertains to a particular ceremony, for example, my son’s graduation from eighth grade. Ceremoniously pertains to the quality of pomp and circumstance attached to any event, for example, to a graduation ceremony where people dress up, line up, and listen to special processional music. (Especially but not limited to music titled “Pomp & Circumstance.”)
There was lots of conversation this week, among forty- and fifty-somethings, about eighth grade graduation, as most of us reflected on the contrast between the elaborate rite of passage this is for our children, and the non-event it was for us as eighth-graders becoming ninth-graders thirty or forty years ago.
But what’s wrong with a little ceremony? Nothing, especially if it is a rite of passage. Being a person of ritual myself (“got ritual?”) I wonder if perhaps most of us don’t have enough ritual and ceremony in our lives, and if perhaps the hoopla that eighth-grade graduation has evolved into (complete with processions, testimonials, ties, formal dresses, tickets, and dinner at a fancy restaurant) reflects the longing we all have to mark important moments, and to mark them in the communities that matter to us.
Perhaps every day is a rite of passage and deserves its ceremony. It’s a good thing.