Releasing the Year Behind Us

A piece of brightly flaming flash paper hangs suspended in midair as a parishioner, arm lifted, looks on in wonder.

The new year calls us forward, filled with mystery. As we turn toward that new year, we take a final glimpse of the past year, and reckon with all that it held for us.

There are baskets moving through the aisles with pens and something called flash paper. It’s specially treated paper that evaporates in fire, leaving no ash or residue. [Note: this could be dissolving paper to place in a bowl of warm water, rather than burning paper in a fire.]

Take a piece of the paper and reflect on the year behind you. Consider what you might leave behind today, burning it brightly so that it changes form and disappears.

What parts of our lives – what things, ideas, people, ways of living – have become obstacles to our becoming the people we want to be, the people we need to be?

What's holding you back? What's getting in the way of you living as fully as you'd like to?

What might you burn away? What will you relinquish?

Write a word or two on the paper. Nobody will see it except you, the flame [or water], and the Universe.

[Allow a minute for people to write on their paper; perhaps have music playing.]

For the next few minutes, music will invite you forward so that you can put your paper into the fire. The flames will take it very quickly. As flame takes the paper, let it go. (If you’re more comfortable, I can burn your paper for you.) The fire will do the rest.

[Music is a good way to keep this ritual reflective, rather than inviting conversation. When concluded:]

If the past year held joy and growth for you, may that sweetness continue to bless you.

If the past year held pain and bitterness, may you be relieved of those burdens and renewed for the journey ahead.

Let us look to the new with hope, with curiosity about its many unknowns, and with faith in our strength to navigate it with grace.