I just attended a Diversity Breakfast marking the life, work and values of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a well-attended event in the Columbia, Missouri community.
As I took in the entire event I asked myself how it is that communities make statements about what is important to them. The answer to that question derives from a repeating pattern. I saw it again this morning.
People agree to gather in one place. They generally identify who they are or what sub-group of the greater whole they represent. This is done with name tags or group table markers. The community eats together, physical and symbolic nurturing of the aggregate.
Symbols and symbolic actions ritualize shared beliefs and loyalty: presentation of the colors, singing the national anthem, saying a prayer that recognizes the transcendent value of it all.
Awards are presented that reinforce the values the group agrees are worth emulating.
Artistic and cultural beauty is shared, a way to join the gathering together around a non-rational common experience.
Someone is engaged to present a speech, oratory which restates the values the community shares and hopefully inspires them to strengthen resolve to pursue them with more effort and commitment.
The event is repeating, which reinforces its importance; not only once, but regularly.
Wait a minute! Am I describing a community event or public worship? Or, because humans are involved and gather the tribe in similar ways, it’s both?