This Sunday, we will be celebrating our annual ingathering service. This service, usually the first Sunday after Labor Day, traditionally marks the start of the new church year. And since the late 1970’s, Unitarian Universalist congregations have been marking this occasion with a Water Ceremony (or Water Communion.) The tradition has continued even as many of our congregations have moved away from the academic-year model for services. The actual church year is ongoing for many these days, with regular services continuing throughout the church year. And yet, we still celebrate Ingathering in September. Such is the way with traditions and rituals. They have a meaning that is deeper than their history or their origins.
This year is different in so many ways. We are in a continual state of deciding how we will be as a congregation and how we will commune, care for one another, and worship together. What works? What do we need to let go of– for now? What new ways can we discover and try? There is power and comfort in our traditions and our rituals. It’s hard to let them go, even temporarily. And yet, there is excitement and potential in trying new ways and discovering new paths.
This Sunday, we will be celebrating our Ingathering, even though we will not be gathering in our sanctuary. We will be celebrating our Homecoming, though most of us are in our homes and have been for quite a while. We will not be celebrating with the traditional water ceremony. There is a power, an emotional and spiritual “weight” to the gathering and combining of our various waters. I think the ritual will be more appropriate and more meaningful as a celebration for when we once again gather in our sanctuary for worship. That time will come… not as soon as we would like, but it will come. And when it does, we will need a way to mark the occasion, to celebrate our return, and a way to re-sanctify our shared worship space. Our water ceremony is ideally suited for this need– and so I have decided to hold it in reserve for that day of returning. So, if you have saved a bit of water for the water ceremony for this Sunday’s service, hold on to it. Put it in the freezer. (Label it so you don’t forget what it is.) We will need them sometime this year– but not this Sunday.
Sharing the Pulpit
While I am responsible for the pulpit on Sunday mornings, I am not IN the pulpit every Sunday morning. I follow a year-round model of preaching– which means rather than take two months off in the summer, I spread my time off throughout the year. I am still in the pulpit the same number of Sundays, but there is more consistency throughout the year. This means the Sundays usually filled by guests and volunteers during the summer are also spread out throughout the year. Which means we need help filling those Sundays. Do you have something you’d like to share with the congregation? A sermon or reflection waiting to be expressed? Do you know someone in the community that has a good message for us to hear and consider as part of our responsible search for truth and meaning? I will be hosting mini-workshops throughout the coming year on how to craft a homily and what it means for us to worship together. I’m ready to coach and support anyone who wants to volunteer to fill our pulpit. Savi Sharma, the novelist, says, “Everyone has a story to tell.” What’s yours?
Open Pulpit Dates: 10/4, 11/1, 11/29, 12/27, 2/21, 3/7, 3/28, 4/25, 5/9, 5/30, 6/27