(Editor's Note: This Citizenship Vow Ritual was designed by Hannah Arin, an intern with The Practicing Democracy Project, and Mary Ann Brussat, director of the Project. It was first offered on October 12, 2018, at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. It was followed by a Voting Ritual. We offer a description of it here for those who would like to host a similar vow ceremony in your community.)
AS PEOPLE GATHER, give them each a copy of the "Democratic Values, Virtues, and Spiritual Practices" chart with the Citizenship Vow on the back.
Leader: New citizens of the United States make an "Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America" during their naturalization ceremony. Some groups also regularly say The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States and the republic for which it stands. But many of us do not regularly talk about our relationship with our democracy — what it means to us and what it requires of us.
In spiritual and community circles, it is common for people to make vows expressing their aspirations, commitments, and intentions. Making a vow in front of others gives importance and momentum to your efforts.
Today, we invite you to make your own Citizenship Vow. You each have a chart listing "Democratic Values, Virtues, and Spiritual Practices." These were identified by The Practicing Democracy Project after researching the founding documents of the United States and writings over the centuries that explore the meaning of democracy. There are 10 core values, 52 virtues, and 26 spiritual practices that are important in a democracy.
We are going to take five minutes now so that you can reflect on the chart and choose three values, three virtues, and three spiritual practices to fill in the blanks on the Citizenship Vow on the back of the handout. Although you can choose from any column, the chart is designed to be read vertically. So, for example, to uphold the value of equality, you might cultivate the virtue of respect and work with spiritual practices for justice.
I will ring the bell a minute before it is time to finish up filling in your vow.
FOR THE LEADER'S REFERENCE, here is the vow:
Today, I, _________________ (your name), commit to my own personal relationship with democracy. I vow to uphold the values of _________________, _________________, and _________________ in my relationship to democracy. I vow to cultivate the virtues of _________________, _________________, and _________________ on my democratic journey. And, I vow to commit myself to the spiritual practices of _________________, _________________, and _________________ in order to better sustain and nourish my commitment to democracy, my highest self, and the whole of creation.
BELL when people seem to be done.
Leader: As I mentioned earlier, stating a vow publicly gives it more power. So I invite you to divide into groups of three and take turns reading your Citizenship Vows.
TIME FOR GROUPS TO SHARE THEIR VOWS.
Leader: Thank you, Citizens!