Things to Do in Advance
Allow time to view the video and review this
section of the leader’s guide before meeting with your class. Determine what
you will cover in the available class time. Plan for any of the Optional Activities
you would like to use and how you will integrate the work with the class. Acquaint
yourself with the following terms: rites of passage, Sabbath, sacred, and secular
(see glossary). Consult with members of your clergy when appropriate. Finally,
duplicate any materials you plan to distribute to the group.
PURPOSE OF THIS SESSION (10 minutes)
Prepare your group to watch the video. (Read or paraphrase)
In the video a distinction will be made between sacred time and secular or
“ordinary” time. What is the difference?
Distribute copies o f “Session III—Terms” found at the back
of this section. Take a few moments to discuss these terms.
One might wish to consider the Greek words used in Christian scriptures, chronos—clock
time and cairos—God’s time. Many people believe that sacred time is
not separate from everyday or ordinary time, but rather is hidden
or obscured by human systems. For some religious people—for example, those
who live in monasteries—nearly all time is sacred. Followers of Islam view
all time as potentially sacred. For other religious people time is divided
into the holy, and not yet holy.
Religious communities often come together at set times for worship. Many faith
traditions designate particular times of the day, week and year for
religious observance. Families or small groups may set aside specific times
to devote to religious contemplation and observance. Individuals experience
rites of passage as events that take place apart from everyday time. By creating
and experiencing sacred time the believer is living out a special understanding
of eternal reality that gives meaning to ordinary time. Participating in religious
ritual transports believers from ordinary time to the eternal time of religious
These times create opportunities for the believer to get in touch with what
is important in her or his concept of the holy. The opportunity to review life
in a religious context creates changed worldviews that can influence one’s attitude
toward secular or profane (ordinary) time.
While different religious communities view and
practice observance of sacred time differently, all share in this concept and
find in sacred time a connection to the eternal. Sacred time recalls significant
moments of the past, and looks to the future with religious hope; it collects
into the present moment both past and future in a celebration of the eternal.
SHOW EPISODE III (20 minutes)
Allow time for members of the group to discuss
what they have seen before proceeding with the rest of the discussion.
SACRED TIME VS. SECULAR TIME (15 minutes)
Explore the difference between sacred time and secular time, as
explained by the video.
What are some characteristics that distinguish sacred time from ordinary
What are some purposes of sacred time?
How does sacred time relate to ordinary time in your faith tradition? Does
one affect the other?
How has the observance of sacred time changed historically and according
to place and/or lifestyle?
Observances that are annual or monthly can be shown to coincide
with natural phenomenon linked to natural cycles, but a weekly Sabbath
is strictly a human creation in response to religious belief.
What purpose does a weekly Sabbath serve?
Has that purpose changed over time?
Do you observe a Sabbath day in your faith tradition? If so, how is it
Some traditions consider the Sabbath a day
of rest. Some consider it to be a day set apart from other days for worship.
RITES OF PASSAGE (15 minutes)
In the video, Martin
Marty states that while different religions have different ways of observing
rites of passage, “they’re all concerned with what maturation means, to
Do you think there are aspects
of modern culture that have detracted from the sacred nature of some rites
of passage? If so, what might these be?
How does ritual help you make
your passage through life’s transitions?
What rites of passage does your
faith tradition observe?
Discuss the theological reasons and religious history of
these rites. You may wish to ask a member of your clergy to address this issue
before the group. Most faith groups have rites to mark birth, coming
of age, marriage, death, and recognition of faith.
Compare your practices to those of other religions depicted in the video.
In the video, James Divita states that people who
do not regularly attend religious services often look to their faith to “…hatch, match, and
dispatch.” He is referring to rites of passage such as initiation, marriage
What is your family’s tradition
in relation to birth, marriage and death? Do you include sacred ritual on
What rites of passage have you
observed? How did you feel afterward? Did they bring about changes in your
What purposes do these events
serve in the larger culture?
Are there any rites of passage
that are unique to your faith? If so, what purposes do they serve?
Over the course of the next several days, pay particular attention
to the various nature of time. Compare the quality of time spent at worship, play, and
work. How are these times different from one another? How does the quality
of time change as you grow older? Discuss these aspects of time with your family
Note: In the video are two separate rites of passage that may bring up conversation
in some settings. The first is the baptism that takes place at St. Elizabeth
Seton Catholic Parish. The immersion baptism that takes place at this congregation
is not typical in the Catholic tradition. The second is the bar mitzvah/bat
mitzvah ceremony. This ceremony was video taped at a dress rehearsal because
the actual event would take place on the Jewish Sabbath, a time in
which cameras would not be allowed into the synagogue.
Session III—Optional Activities
Encourage participants to be aware of sacred time they observe during the week.
If they currently do not set aside designated sacred time between religious
services, encourage them to do so. Perhaps the group can suggest
ways in which an individual and/or family can accomplish this. After several
weeks of this new practice, they might record their thoughts and bring
them to a session for group discussion.
Assemble small groups to create new rituals that would mark special times in
the lives of young people. Examples might include getting a driver’s license,
the purchase of a first car, the first day of school, or a first date. Can
or should these times be made sacred? If so, what would make them sacred?
Session III—Additional Discussion
SACRED TIME VS. SECULAR TIME:
Do you have a day set aside, apart from the day of rest, when your faith
group gathers for spiritual reflection?
Discuss communities, such as monasteries, where all time is generally regarded
What conditions are necessary
for such practices?
Is it possible to think about
all time being sacred under other conditions?
COMPARISON OF FAITH TRADITIONS:
Compare and contrast daily sacred-time practices that were
presented in the video (Muslim prayer five times a day, Roman Catholic
daily mass, monastery life, the Jewish Sabbath, and
others). Look for common features.
Does your faith tradition call
for anything similar to the ritual cleansing depicted by the Islamic fireman
in the video?
Will religious and cultural diversity
have an impact on your faith practices?
How has religion’s intersection
with other cultures changed and/or influenced your observance of sacred time?
SACRED TIME AS OBSERVED IN PUBLIC
In the past, sacred time was often part of public events—for example, prayer
to open a civic ceremony. However, as the nation has become more
religiously diverse, people have increasingly objected to prayer as
part of public events. The United States Constitution guarantees the separation
of church and state, which means in part that the state cannot endorse
any one religion.
Do you think these developments have changed people’s notion of sacred time?
How can we bring the sacred into public space without endorsing one particular
religious view or tradition?
On the other hand, elements of secular culture have strongly influenced the
way people organize all time—including sacred time. For example, career responsibilities,
recreational pursuits, and changes in the composition of families may pose conflicts
with traditional faith observance.
How has this intrusion of secular lifestyle changed your religion’s concept
of sacred time? Are adjustments to observances made at times such as Superbowl
Sunday, the events surrounding the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, etc?
Should schools designate an evening a week when there are no scheduled extra
curricular activities so that it is easier for families to share sacred time
with their faith groups?
In what ways do you think your religious practices will change because of
secular changes as we move into the next century?
INDIVIDUAL USE OF SACRED TIME
Explore the congregational members’ use of sacred time apart
from your place of communal worship—for example, in the home, office, school, or
Do members spend more sacred time or secular time together? Give examples
Why are both important and how do they complement each other?
What are the differences between individual sacred time and communal sacred
RITES OF PASSAGE:
Are there moments in the life cycle that are not marked by ritual for which
you would like to see the creation of a religious ceremony?
How does your faith tradition welcome new members into the faith?
How does your faith tradition mark coming of age or maturity to adulthood?
How does your faith tradition treat death?
What acts do clergy, loved ones, and the community perform that make an observance
of death sacred?