Archive for June, 2015

Jun 01 2015

What Will We Learn This Summer?

Published by under Minister's Musings


Getting Ready for a New Water Communion 2015!

by Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones

Homecoming Sunday—held annually on the first Sunday after Labor Day—brings out our highest Sunday morning attendance of the year. There’s something about that new beginning, about that ritual of “return” to our spiritual home (even if we haven’t traveled at all over the summer), and about the ritual of Water Communion that beckons us all.

Homecoming Sunday: September 13, 2015!

Right now we stand on the very threshold of summer, yet I am already looking ahead to this fall’s Homecoming Sunday on September 13. On that Sunday we will launch a year of celebrating the First Unitarian Church’s 150th anniversary. We will celebrate the Beloved Community that we are now and that we are becoming—a community of depth and meaning, of love, hope, and courage, dedicated to making Love visible in all that we do and say.

And of course we will participate in our annual Water Communion. For the past few years we have been working to make this ritual more meaningful. We have learned to create a “communal poem” of place names, and I have almost trained you not to say “virtual water,” since all the water is symbolic, whether it came from your kitchen tap or from the Red Sea. The ritual flows more smoothly now.

But we can make it more substantive, truer to its real meaning. Drawing from the changes that Unitarian Universalist congregations around the country have made to their Water Communion, I suggest that this year, instead of naming the places where we have been on our spiritual or physical journeys over the summer, let us name what we have learned over these summer months–still in just a few words, creating one communal poem.

Here’s how it works:

 “This Summer I Learned …”

For Water Communion this year, each of us fills in the blank: “This summer I learned …” We speak our learnings briefly into the microphone, then walk forward to the altar in the center of the labyrinth, and pour the water that represents our very selves—our learning and growing humanity—into a common bowl.

No one will be left out, for every single one of us is growing, learning, changing every day, in huge ways and in tiny ones. And all of these learnings matter.

This is the community we are creating—a community of seekers and learners of all ages, races, ethnicities, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, theologies, and more. What a great way to bring to life this truth about who we are—using an old ritual that has tried to capture this meaning all along.

 Some Examples to Inspire You

In April, on the 10th anniversary of you calling me to become your Senior Minister, many of you shared what you had learned in the past decade. Your notes have moved and encouraged me to keep growing. Your answers, rephrased to fit the new prompt for Water Communion, offer wonderful examples of how our Homecoming ritual may sound this year:

  • I have learned that what we do matters and that it has a ripple effect.
  • I have learned to be more courageous, more willing to take risks and to act on them.
  • I have learned how to be “broken open” and to love awkwardly.
  • I have learned to keep building relationships even when it is so hard to do.
  • I have learned to be a more considerate person.
  • I have learned that I’m truly OK just the way I am, warts and all.
  • I have learned more about aging and how I want to be in these later years.
  • I have learned to be more loving.
  • I’ve learned to focus on doing good in the world and to just keep plugging along on at it.
  • I’ve learned hope.

Can you hear how vulnerable and real these offerings are? Imagine creating a ritual where we bring this—our most honest selves—into the community. Imagine how that bowl of water will (symbolically!) brim over with our learning, and how hearing others’ learnings will encourage each of us to grow.

Beloved Community, may you find some joy, peace, and rest this summer, no matter how many challenges life may bring. May you notice that each day you are learning and growing, making meaning of your life—and may you bring all of these riches back to this spiritual community throughout this summer, and especially on Homecoming Sunday, September 13!


Rev. Nancy

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