Like Flower Communion and the Blessing of the Animals, a Hats Off Ceremony has very special meaning to both the center of attention and the whole community.
A Tip of the Hat to Honor & Inspire – seemann
When a faith community observes a Hats Off Ceremony, it is usually cherished by all participants as a touching and meaningful experience. It can provide inspiration to take on the future for all concerned.
History of the Hats Off Ceremony for Use in Churches and Community Groups
Larry was a fixture at the suburban Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands north of Houston. He loved to be a greeter welcoming people as they arrived at church and he coordinated an After Church Lunch Bunch each week.
Then one summer day he and his wife were told he had “a terrible kind of non-Hodgkins lymphoma called mantle cell” which was chemo resistant and highly aggressive. He endured a grueling program of treatment involving a week per month of inpatient hospitalization and after a week of recovery, two weeks of outpatient chemo, only to start all over again the next month.
Many members and friends of the church had risen to the occasion by giving blood and some even took the time to donate platelets. Others visited him in the hospital and at home in order to allow his wife to continue working in order to survive the numerous copays and normal living expenses.
There were several close calls along the way. At some point near the end of the year, it looked like he’d be able to walk enough to go to church one Sunday. A few nights before his wife had an inspiration during the night for the idea of the Hats Off Ceremony.
The Hats Off Ceremony in Action
The congregation was asked to wear hats that day to honor Larry’s return to the church he so loved. Early in the service a family friend read the short dedication about “Hats Off to Larry” as he sat in the front row beaming with happiness to be there.
At the end of the reading, everyone stood and tipped their hats to him in honor of his return from the hospital and the struggles with Stage 4 cancer. At the end of the service, several gave him the hats they had brought in honor of the occasion. That was helpful since Larry was still in the hat-wearing stage of intensive chemo.
Tears of joy flowed freely in the congregation, and he received the encouragement he needed, knowing the thoughts, prayers, and love of this church was supporting him all the way as he returned home to begin the second phase of treatment as an outpatient.
Ways to Use Hats Off Observance
Whether it be in a church or community event, this Hats Off Observance can be helpful in providing recognition and showing caring for the deserving:
People returning from a long period of hospitalization or being homebound;
Soldiers coming home from service;
Honoring caregivers or volunteers;
Retirement recognition ceremony;
Father’s Day observance;
Memorial service or funeral;
Any group recognition of significance to honor.
Some churches may choose this as a community occasion similar to flower communion. It can bind the congregation to issues and people they care very much about. Participation in a Hats Off Observance can also provide a deeply spiritual experience for the parishioners which can inspire their daily lives. It can also be a meaningful way of collecting clothes for a resale shop or items for a food pantry.
Maybe a Hats Off Ceremony would be appropriate for your church or community.
Copyright Hildra Tague. Obtain permission for use online or in print.