Our annual water communion service kicked off the new church year.
Join us for our annual water communion service. At this service, each person is invited to bring some water from places that nurture your spirit. As we mingle our water together into one common bowl, we’ll take time to reconnect and reflect on how all of our water comes from one global well that nourishes every species on the plant. We’re planning a wonderful welcome bash after the service so that we all have an opportunity to reconnect after the summer.
Please note that this is an approximation of the sermon delivered. Often Rev. Samaya will add or delete portions of the sermon in the moment.
The Waters of Life Part I
What a delight it is to be back with you here at our Water Communion service when we haven’t been together for the last two months. For me, it feels like a long time and yet it feels like we were just together sharing in our flower communion. I love that we gather together after a time apart, arriving out of our many singularities to become one Beloved Community again. I thought it fitting to start at the beginning as we begin our church year – and I mean the at the very beginning – the very beginning of a sacred text that many of us know – yes, the Hebrew Bible. I’m going to start off at the beginning with Genesis 1, verse 1 and go not very far into the story before I’ll stop it and go into what is called a midrash. That’s just a way of interpreting and imagining the text in a new, creative way for today’s context that comes from our Jewish heritage. So, let us start at the beginning:
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.1
Hold it – let’s stop right there. Do you see it? It’s staring you right in the face in that last line! You see, I was here from the beginning as God was there forming those heavens and earth – yes that’s right. I know you’re wondering who that might be – and I am Wisdom – that which was with God even before the heavens and the earth were created, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a great story! Yes, a wonderful story – I mean come on – God creating the world and everything in it within six days! It’s all a great stooorrrryyyy!
That’s right – just a great stooorrry – so good in fact that there are some people that believe it to be a literal story, but it’s just a great story. What actually happened was that God ran a few simulations or practice sessions of what would or might happen first – you know just to get the big kinks worked out before God rolled out the great experiment of life on the planet you call earth. I thought that as you were about to enter a new church year and feeling as if you’re facing a void as it all starts up again – you might be thinking that we are indeed facing a void. As we discern together how best to maximize our energy and gifts with what is best for South Fraser Unitarians, knowing that we enter this year without the presence of a Director of Religious Exploration, and how we are going to be together. I know that those that are in leadership here – and let’s be clear here – you are all in leadership in some way came twice – and one just yesterday. They are to be commended for their time and dedication. Please take a moment to thank them for their gifts.
As you start your church year with some significant changes already underway, I thought that you might be interested in hearing about a just a couple of those simulations or practice sessions that God ran to see if there might be something in there for you.
In this first simulation I want to share with you, God created everything! God created the animals, the plants, the winged and gilled ones, the feathered ones, the mountains, day and night – what else did God create? Take a few … Yes, God created all of those, and they sat there lifeless and there wasn’t much in the way of creation that came alive – no birth and death, no spring and fall – no? Invite a couple of responses.
The thing was, everything that God created ended up as two dimensional characters and appeared as if they were drawings that a very fine painter like Emily Carr might do. We sat there, God and I, and we puzzled a long time over this. I can’t remember what it was that made me realize this, but perhaps it was when God reached for a glass of water that it struck me. We forgot one very important very crucial ingredient – water!
It was water that helped to provide the ingredient that helped form beings that are alive with the sacredness, the specialness, the gift of being alive on this earth.
“From prehistoric times when people believed that the Goddess was the goddess of the Earth or Nature itself, she who could give or take life and renew herself in the eternal cycle of seasons and water, from death to rebirth.”2
There’s a reason why most of the major religions of the world honour and respect water. And it is why we bring a little of the water from a place that touches our souls. We share this water just as we share the gift of ourselves to this Beloved Community. It is a gift to be alive and present in this Beloved Community that holds such joy for us all. Shout out one feeling word – seriously, one word of appreciation you have for being here now.
… As the choir sings the Cycle Song of Life, I invite you to place yourself by the water you have in mind – either the water you brought from a special place, or think of a place near water that touches your spirit, that causes you to take a deeper breath and touches a place of awe within you. As you have this place in mind, I invite you to think of how this water brought the sacredness of life to all of the beings and plants that this water touched.
Choir Anthem – Cycle Song of Life
The Water of Life – Part II
After God made night and day, the next thing he did was to separate the waters – well God was a little OCD in those days and kept trying to organize things. Initially God had three types of water. The first was running water – you know the kind that comes from rivers, brooks, and creeks. The second was from standing water – you know, water like lakes and ponds – even lagoons. And the third was from open water – the sea and ocean. And that’s where the people lived – by those waters and no other water.
What I’m going to ask you to do now is to move to either this side if you brought water from running water. In the center if you brought water from open water, and on this side if you’ve brought water from standing water. Once you’re there, talk about where you brought your water from and the quality of that water that you want to share.
So, for example, my water comes from Seabeck where I go swimming at salmon bake beach each year. When I think of Seabeck, I’m reminded of the joy of being in community and I want to share that with people this year. So, I invite you now to move to this side for running water, the center for open water, and this side for standing water.
…After a while of running this simulation, God found that people became very protective of their water – not wanting to share it, and hoarding it, treating only their type of water as sacred. We realized that the water needed to be shared equally with people. We realized that we wanted to have all water treated as sacred – and all people treated as sacred.
Today, the current major religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism) lend it great importance. In Judaism from the earliest times, the immersion ritual was symbol of regeneration and purity, a way of finding unity with original perfection.
Also in early Christian baptism symbolized death and rebirth, the elimination of impurity and the guarantee of eternal life. It was also one of the symbols used to represent the Holy Spirit.
For Muslims ritual bathing is of great importance, because it gives a state of purity back to the believer. Cleansing and purification with water is scrupulously carried out before entering a mosque. According to Islamic teachings, no one can own or possess water since it is a divine gift. According to Buddhism, water is a symbol of purity and in the Buddhist new year it is celebrated in a special rite.
Hindus believe the waters of the river Ganges are sacred, and although the river is currently polluted, they still believe in its powers for spiritual regeneration.
For us as Unitarian Universalists, water is sacred as it is in all of life – it forms the very basis of creation. Water symbolizes the sharing of our own individual gifts and being able to grow into the fullness of them. Just as water shares provides life to everything, so too do we share our gifts freely with those around us. It is in this way that we create the Beloved Community. It is in this way that we become one body that is we call South Fraser Unitarians. The sharing of waters is one representation of how we do that in ritual. It’s up to us to live it out in the life of this community.
The Water of Life – Part III
And so, dear ones, we come together on this rainy September afternoon to reform our community, to become one once again. As we face a new church year, let us come forward and share our waters. Let us do so by holding this Beloved Community in our hearts and stating aloud, or silently to yourself a way in which you are going to share your water, your gifts, with this community. I encourage each person to be brief in their sharing.
After the last person has shared their water, I’ll ring the tingshas and we’ll sit together in silence for about two minutes. Allow what you just heard to settle into your heart during this time. The choir will bring us out of silence by singing another anthem – we’re so lucky to have such a great choir! They’ll be singing Air Moves Us.
Choir Anthem – Air Moves Us
The Water of Life – Part IV
We each have within us the power to be a blessing in the world, the humility to receive a blessing from another, and the ability to bless. This water that represents the gifts of all of us in this room that arises from a place that touches our souls and inspires awe. Please join with me in blessing this sacred water by stretching out your arms and having your palms or fingertips facing this water. After the service, you’ll be invited to take some of this water home if you like, and I’ll be pouring some of it out near the trees as a symbol of our gratitude for meeting on this land.
We have shared our waters, which have touched the west, the north, the south and the east, which come from the sky, the surface of the earth and from deep wells and springs within the earth.
We have shared water that belonged to lakes, streams, and reservoirs of fresh waters that quench our thirst.
We have shared water that is a part of the great oceans and the seas that circle the globe, teeming with life, the source of all life.
We have shared water in this place of meeting and sharing.
In this water there is new water, formed in the atmosphere daily, there is old water, water as old as the earth, water from which life has evolved over the eons.
This is the stream of life from which all life flows.
All people are connected by this stream, for it runs through our veins and courses through the stems and leaves of plants.
It is the symbol of the cleansing power of forgiveness and the faithful promise of healing love.
It is the symbol and the reality of the oneness that unites humankind and all life.
Today we bring water
To give back to the earth,
To mingle with all the waters of the earth,
And join all living things.
Today we pour water
To honor the earth that gives us life,
To honor the community of all life,
Plants, animals and people.
Today we offer thanks for the gift of water and also for the web of life we all share, near or far
May our separate waters join into one sacred stream as we add our lives into the stream of living souls who live out love, work for justice and hunger for peace.3
May it be so.
- Harper Collins Study Bible, New Revised Standard Version