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Recognition and Blessing for Chosen / Intentional Family

Kenneth L. Cuthbertson

Ken is a retired minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbytery of Santa Fe (New Mexico), former faculty for the Ecumenical Institute for Ministry, spiritual director, and spouse of Doug.

The terms chosen family or intentional family (etc.) refer to those people in our lives who we acknowledge as “family” regardless of any biological or legal link. They fulfill for us the role of family as a relational support system, and may or may not include some or all members of our families of origin or our marital/blended families. They have existed throughout human history, but increasingly so in recent times as people move more and more from place to place, often far from family and traditional community ties, forming new circles and bonds of affinity in the places they are living. This liturgy may be used informally within the circle of chosen family members, or more formally in the context of communal worship. It involves no particular vows or promises, but simply offers recognition, blessing, and celebration for relationship.

A leader begins with selections from the following Scriptures, or others.

Listen for God’s Word:

From Proverbs (18:24): There is a friend who is closer than a sibling.

From the book of Ruth (1:16–18): Ruth [the foreigner] said to Naomi, “Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die—there will I be buried. May the Holy One do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!” When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

From Mark’s Gospel (3:32–35): A crowd was sitting around Jesus. “Look,” they said, “your mother and siblings are outside, asking for you.” But Jesus replied, “Who are my mother and siblings?” Looking at those seated in the surrounding circle, Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my siblings! Whoever does what God wants, is my brother, my sister, and my mother.”

A leader continues:
Beloved, family is perhaps the most universal and basic social unit that exists in our world. We think of it as biological and marital, nuclear, blended, and extended. But family also exists beyond genetic, genealogical, and legal categories. It is created through intention and choice, through the recognition of deep affinity among and between individuals in various settings and situations by those (of us) who share life, lifestyle, faith, purpose, mutual caring and support, and mutual affection. Such “families of choice” are gifts of God, from whom, we are told, “every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” (Eph. 3:15).

We are gathered here now to recognize, celebrate, and bless the choices of N.(s) / our choices to identify themselves / ourselves as family together, not to the exclusion of others, and not necessarily for all time, but as a present affirmation of the bond that currently exists among them / us. As the psalmist says:

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live in unity!
It is like precious oil on the head and face,
the head and face of Aaron, the first among priests,
oil running down over the collar of the priestly vestments.
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Holy One ordained blessing, life forevermore (Psalm 133).

A leader then asks:
N.(s), do you / we regard and affirm one another as members of your / our chosen family?

Those named may respond together, or each in turn:
I do.

A leader continues:
Let us pray. God of all; God of strangers, friends, and family; of given family and chosen family; God of our differences and our affinity; thanks be for all who love, support, and care for one another, and thanks be for leading these / us gathered here to be able to say together today, “We are family!” May they / we be surrounded and sustained in holy love and caring today and all their / our days, we pray. Amen.

May the Holy One bless and keep you / us.
May the Holy One be kind and gracious to you / us.
May the Holy One regard you / us with favor and give you / us peace. Amen.
(Num. 6:24–26)

The family may exchange signs of peace with one another, and then all who are gathered may do so.

(Possible song resource, in addition to hymns, psalms, etc.: “We Are Family!” by Sister Sledge)