Throughout the year, members and friends of Channing collect small amounts of water that have meaning for them, either from a special location (e.g., the family home, an ocean or river, memento of a trip) or a special occasion (first rain after a dry spell). At the service, usually at the first service in September, the samples of water are placed in a single bowl so they can merge. We connect with one another through our sharing with one another the source and significance to us of our contributed water. The combining of our water deepens in meaning for us as a congregation of interconnected lives. We know this as the Water Communion, sometimes called the Water Ceremony.
At the end of the service, we gather outside our sanctuary and return the water to the Earth to nourish the growth of the tree we observe from inside our sanctuary during services.
The first Water Ritual was held at the November 1980 Women and Religion Continental Convocation of Unitarian Universalists in East Lansing, Michigan. Created by Unitarian Universalists Carolyn McDade and Lucille Schuck Longview “as a way for women who lived far apart to connect the work each was doing locally to the whole.”
McDade and Longview wanted to create a new ritual “that spoke to our connectedness to one another, to the totality of life, and to our place on this planet.” They included a new, inclusive symbol of women’s spirituality: water.
“Water is more than simply a metaphor. It is elemental and primary, calling forth feelings of awe and reverence. Acknowledging that the ocean is considered by many to be the place from which all life on our planet came—it is the womb of life—and that amniotic waters surround each of us prenatally, we now realize that [this worship service] was for us a new story of creation… We choose water as our symbol of our empowerment.”
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