The concept for this ritual came from John Bradshaw's PBS workshop series, "Healing the Shame That Binds You." Small groups encircled a participant and offered affirmations the person should have heard the day she or he was born, like, "Welcome to the universe!" and I'm so glad you're a girl!" or I'm so glad you're a boy!" Watching this moving exercise, I realized that the same thing could be done using quotations from the Bible. Remember the character Pollyanna pointing out to her minister that there are more blessings than curses in scripture? Experiencing these blessings addressed personally to us dramatically restores our sense of sacred worth.
One may address the biblical affirmations that follow to oneself, or to others in pairs and in groups. In the latter two configurations, invite the recipient of the blessings to sit comfortably or kneel reverently in the center of those offering the affirmations. Give the recipient an opportunity to quiet the self, taking in deep and slow breaths, possibly closing eyes to distractions, becoming centered. Then, going around the circle, take turns offering the affirmations in the order printed here, with genuine feeling, inserting the recipient's first name. Pause briefly between each affirmation, so it can sink into the recipient's body and soul. Occasionally, but not every time, gently touch the person as you offer an affirmation. Check this out beforehand with each recipient; some may not feel comfortable being touched.
On the final affirmation, the whole group may lay hands on the person. After the person has received every affirmation, give the recipient an opportunity to reflect silently for a moment or two before getting up to give the next recipient her or his place. Before any conversation, each in the pair or group should have an opportunity to be the recipient. Then together, dialogue about what the exercise meant to each participant, first as receiver, then as giver of the affirmations. The group may want to conclude with a prayer, such as the prayer Jesus taught us or a song.
The following verses are taken from the New Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted, with language adapted for this purpose. The textual references are given for information only and should not be read aloud to the recipient.
Let us make N. in our image, according to our likeness..And God saw that she/he was very good. (Genesis 16, 31)
See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh (Exodus 7:1)
N., choose life! (Deuteronomy 30:19)
What is N. that thou art mindful of her/him? Yet thou hast made her/him little less than God, and dost crown her/him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:4-5, RSV)
Hail, O favored one, God is with you! Do not be afraid, N., for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:28, 30, RSV)
Blessed are you among women/men, and blessed is the fruit of your womb/loins! (Luke1:42)
Do not be afraid, N., for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day a Savior. (Luke 2:11)
N. is my daughter/son, my Beloved, with whom I am well please (Matthew 3:17)
Blessed are you, N., for yours is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
Therefore I tell you, N., do not be anxious about your life. (Matthew 6:25, RSV)
For God so loved N., that God gave her/him the Christ. (John 3:16)
N., you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. (John 8:32)
N., God loved you with so much love that God was generous with mercy. God brought you to life with Christ. (Ephesians 2:4, JB)
N., you are God's work of art. (Ephesians 2:10, JB)
You are created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning God intended you to live it. (Ephesians 2:10, JB)
I came that you, N., may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
I do not cease to give thanks for you, N., as I remember you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:16)
From "Coming out as Sacrament." Copyright 1998, Chris R. Glaser. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. Orders may be placed by calling 1-800-227-2872.