I look forward to gathering with you in community at our Annual Ingathering/ Water Communion service on September 11th. The Water Communion is one of my favorite Unitarian Universalist traditions, as we join our separate waters together as one, as a symbol of our covenant, or bond, to one another and shared principles.
The meaning of our annual ritual has deepened for me this past summer, as I learned more about Unitarian Universalist history through an online class. The water communion tradition was first introduced at the November 1980 Women and Religion Continental Convocation. In my studies I learned how the voices of women religious leaders were initially empowered on the Western frontier in the late 1800’s, and then later suppressed by the American Unitarian Association in the twentieth century. It was not until 1977 when a Women and Religion Resolution was passed at the UUA General Assembly and the movement toward greater inclusion of women’s spirituality and leadership was reborn.
The voices of women in our movement came into fullness, and their presence did exactly what some feared it would do: It changed us. Much of what we include in our services today came from the Women and Religion movement, including the chalice lighting, Joys and Concerns, and the hymn, Spirit of Life. The work of this organization challenged the male-gendered language in our previous hymnal; they also advocated for the addition of our 7th principle: Respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part. Today, women make up nearly 60% of UU ministers.
This story from our history offers us a lesson: we are more powerful and whole together. Our spiritual work is to open ourselves to transformation, welcoming in other stories and voices that have been excluded and silenced, including many races, nationalities, ages, faiths, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and more. These are lessons that hold true for us as a nation as well. Ours is a long journey toward reconciliation and wholeness.
Throughout the month of September, may we explore what it means to be a community of covenant, joined together by shared commitments. This covenant must continually be revisited and renewed. What is broken and separated–within ourselves, our relationships, and the world? What is ours to bind together? May we pledge anew our commitment to journeying toward wholeness, opening wider our hearts, and strengthening the bonds of love.