Liturgical Naming Rite for a Transgender Church Member

This week one of my parishioners, Asher O’Callaghan wrote a post for the Fund for Theological Education about his experience as a transgender man at House for All Sinners and Saints.  You can read his lovely reflection here.

After posting this link on Facebook and Twitter this morning  several people have asked to see what rite we used.  I had posted this on my previous blog last September, but here it is now on this new site:

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Here is the rite we used at Baptism of our Lord Sunday when a transgender member of House for All Sinners and Saints was undergoing a name change.  This is largely taken from a rite shared with me by Episcopal priest, Michele Morgan

One really lovely thing about this day was that Asher made a little shrine to his previously female self, Mary.  It included the whole name lovingly written out, several photos and a candle.

(Prayers of the People)

Presider:

Holy One of Blessing, in baptism you bring us to new life in

Jesus Christ and you name us Beloved. We give you thanks for the renewal

of that life and love in Mary Christine Callahan, who now takes on a new name.

Strengthen and uphold him as he grows in power, and authority, and

meaning of this name: we pray in the Name above names, Jesus, your Son,

whom with you and the Holy Spirit, the Triune God, we adore. Amen

(Lindsey) A reading from the letter of Paul to the Galatians.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no

longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus

The word of the Lord

Thanks be to God

(Laying on of hands)

Let us pray:

We pray for your servant Asher, with thanks for the journey and awakening that

have brought him to this moment, for his place amongst your

people, and for his gifts and calling to serve you.

O God, in renaming your servants Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Peter,

and Paul, you gave them new lives and new tasks, new love and new hope.

We now hold before you our companion. Bless him with a new measure

of grace as he takes this new name. Write him again in your

heart and on your palm. And grant that we all be worthy to call ourselves

Christians, for the sake of your Christ whose name is Love, and in whom,

with you and the Spirit, we pray. Amen

The Giving of the name

Pr. Nadia: By what name shall you be known?

Kate: The name shall be Asher 

Asher: My name is Asher

 

The community may respond by repeating

Your name shall be Asher

Pr. Nadia: Bear this name in the Name of Christ. Share it in the name of Mercy. Offer it

in the name of Justice.

 

Christ is among us making peace right here right now.  The peace of Christ be with you all. And also with you.

 

 

About Nadia Bolz Weber

I am the founding Pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. We are an urban liturgical community with a progressive yet deeply rooted theological imagination. Learn more at www.houseforall.org

  • Ace

    This is truly beautiful! (And I assume adaptable for a trans person who did not feel comfortable using their birth name in public.) Although I am not a Christian, as a religious person I feel that it is the potential and responsibility of all faiths to see our lives and passages as sacred and the work of the divine, and to recognize that in liturgy as they recognize the life passages of others. Thank you for your caring!

  • Sarah

    This is lovely; thank you for sharing! I was raised in a traditional, theologically conservative Southern Baptist church and, in recent years, have found my way to a more inclusive approach to faith. (Thanks be to God — I don’t think my faith would’ve survived otherwise.) Though I’m not currently attending services due to a conflict with my schedule, I’m connected with an emergent-Episcopal community in Boston (www.thecrossingboston.org) and have been so blessed by my LGBT companions. It sounds like HFASS is doing great work! I’ll have to pay y’all a visit next time I’m in Denver. :)

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  • http://www.phoenixsoftwares.net DRMConverter

    That’s exactly what I was looking for!!
    Thanks!

  • http://factmeetsfiction.wordpress.com factmeetsfiction

    Intimate. Beautiful. Sacred.

  • anonymously confused

    Huh? I’m saying prayers for all who were involved in this. It is such a confusing way to “recreate” something that God did right in the first place.

  • David

    According to every relevant Scriptural reference, this is revolting. How dare you misuse and abuse the Grace of our Lord in this selfish socio-politcal act of debasement? Look ashamed !!

    • http://mylifemyfaith.livejournal.com/ Whit

      Nadia, this person is not adding anything to the discussion. I’m not one to just delete comments I disagree with just because, but this person is being awful to Asher without providing a coherent argument against including transgendered people. Can you delete this please?

  • Michael

    Utterly, utterly lost souls, inventing their own “reality”.

    It’s interesting what little clues as to where they are coming from you can pick up on. For instance:

    “Strengthen and uphold him as he grows in power, and authority, and meaning of this name:”

    But “he”, by his own “authority” has chosen to change both gender and name. Gender is reality, and no one has the authority (let alone ability) to change that (unless he were God, and God wouldn’t want to change what He created).
    Why do these people want power and authority, such as would even permit them to change the nature that God created? And even leaving out a personal God, why would they want to change what the laws of physics have established?

    And then, at the very bottom of the page it says “Proudly powered by WordPress”.

    I’ve seen “Powered by WordPress” many times. The prideful part was something they added.

    And I guess prideful just about sums them up.

    Which is the reason they’re lost.

    As someone once said: Sin makes you stupid.

    • http://mylifemyfaith.livejournal.com/ Whit

      You, OTOH, while nasty enough, are contributing something to the discussion. See my first comment for my rebuttal. Also, Mother Nadia doesn’t choose what wording wordpress uses.

      See the novel _A Civil Campaign_ by Lois McMaster Bujold for a portrait of a world where it isn’t. It’s science fiction, yes, but well, in the 1960s cell phones were science fiction. In the 1990s touch screens were science fiction. By the time I die, I fully expect to see medicine advance to the point that it is possible to implant a fully functional uterus or penis and testicles in a person who needs to transition to the opposite gender. Even now, while sex-reassignment surgery is not able to recreate a fully functional reproductive system it can be absolutely convincing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:I_am_a_Woman.jpg

  • Erik Doughty

    Thank you, Nadia. Well done. Blessings to HFASS, to you, and to Asher.

  • Natasha

    As someone who grew up in a strict Baptist household, this story (and this blog) have given me hope that love does abound in some believers, and that perhaps the judgment and hatred I’ve seen in so many isn’t universal among Christians. Michael and David above make a strong point against this hope, but I think of this beautiful way you’ve loved and accepted Asher, and I am grateful for your church and the sharing of your story.

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  • http://mylifemyfaith.livejournal.com/ Whit

    I like the shrine idea, not least because it acknowledges that transition from one gender to another is in a sense the death of the old self. I think that that this rite would require considerable adaptation for use when a transperson does not want to reveal their old identity. In this instance, while Asher knew that he was going to transition when he started attending All Saints and Sinners, he was still living as a woman, and using his old name, so the question of whether or not to let the congregation know his old name seems to have been rather moot. At my previous Methodist church, we had a transgender member who was out against her will because she could not pass as a cisgendered woman. She had transitioned to using a new name and living full time as a woman before she joined our church, though Ohio reserves legal name and gender changes for to persons who have undergone surgery which she could not afford. In that case the best thing that we could do to support her was to simply ignore, insofar as posible, her transgendered status. At least, we thought so at the time- what say you Nadia and Asher?

    To those of you who do not think that this is a positive development I offer the following defense. Gender Identity Disorder is a hereditary disease that some people are born with. Transition is the cure for it. This is what every legitimate doctor and psychologist believes. Celebrating a parishioner’s transition is not morally different from celebrating their recovery from cancer. And if GID is a denial of the perfection of God, so is Downs Syndrome.

    That said, thank you all for your prayers. And there is definately a place for you, as well as us, in ECUSA and ELCA. I will pray for you as well.

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  • Analyse Triolo

    Thank you for posting this liturgy! What an amazing gift for our transgender brothers and sisters. I’ll be looking back on this when I’m ordained.


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