We have a “hug ceremony” for people who have come to receive Jesus as their Lord, been baptized, and completed “Survival Kit”, our introductory training course. Their fellow house church members each give them a rose and a hug, thus the name, “Hug Ceremony”. The purpose of the Church is to reach people who do not know the Lord and make them his disciples. This ceremony is meant to celebrate shepherds, their spouses and house church members for helping people take their first steps towards becoming disciples of Jesus. During this ceremony, most shepherds and their spouses are so moved that they shed tears. It is understandable, considering all the effort, prayer, and sacrifices they made to help them come to know the Lord.
So the hug ceremony is designed to celebrate not only the people who have started new lives as Jesus’ disciples, but also the house church members who helped them. However, lately the focus of the ceremony has been almost entirely on the ones being hugged, not the house church members who helped them. These days, ex-house church members, their families, ministry team members; everyone who is even remotely associated with the person participates in the ceremony. It has become everyone’s celebration, not just the house church members’. This might make the occasion more festive, but it must be a financial burden to shepherds, who usually pay for the roses. Also, when people receive too many flowers, they may be thrown away.
I’d like to suggest that we restore the hug ceremony to its original purpose: to congratulate house church members. From now on, only house church members will participate. The procedure will also change slightly. Previously, people returned to their seats after they hugged the person and gave them a rose. From now on, house church members will stand with the recipient, facing the congregation, until all the hugs are completed. Then the recipients of the day will introduce to the congregation those house church members who helped them begin their new lives as disciples of Jesus. This introduction should be brief and to the point. They might mention their relationships with them: “He’s the person who first invited me to his house church.” Or they might mention their ministries: “He leads worship during our house church meetings.” Or some idiosyncrasies: “She is the oldest member of our house church” or “They have four daughters.” Additionally, whoever first invited them to a house church meeting must be introduced, so they are allowed to participate in the hug ceremony even if they are not members of the house church themselves.
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