Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands


The Gathering

Author Rev. Jennifer, Written Sep 2, 2014

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At last spring’s “Ask the Minister” Sunday someone asked what kind of books I liked to read. I read a lot and the types of books vary but simply put, I love a good story with great characters. I like the feeling of getting to know a person, to find out what makes them who they are, and to hear of their life journey. My favorite non-fiction books are biographies. My favorite fiction books are fantasy series, which usually include the main character on some type of hero/heroine’s journey. A hero, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “is someone who has given his or her life to something greater than oneself”. Throw in a few elves, wizards and/or, dragons and I’m pretty much hooked!

One of my favorite series is called Outlander, by author Diana Gabaldon. Her books were just turned into a series that premiered on cable TV this summer. Much of the story’s beginning is set in the Scottish Highlands in the 18th century. In this past week’s TV episode, members of the clans gather at Castle Leoch to pledge their fealty to the laird of the clan. One by one they come forward, to state their vow, pledge their strength to the clan, and drink of the same cup with their laird in a ritual of loyalty and kinship. This coming together is called “The Gathering”.

Shortly, our congregation will have its own gathering of sorts. This coming Sunday, September 7, we will come with cups of water to add to a common vessel in a ritual called Water Communion. The Water Communion ceremony was developed to recognize the life stories and experiences we each bring to the spiritual community we shape together. Unlike the hierarchal times portrayed in Outlander, in Unitarian Universalism we recognize we come forward as a community of equals. We are a community of “All Souls”, as our Universalist forbearers would say, or “All Saints” as our Unitarian ancestors would have said.

For Water Communion we bring a small cup of water from a place of significance with us to the service. The water could be from as close as your home tap or as far away as a place you have recently traveled. It doesn’t matter so much where the water comes from, what matters is the blessing you hope it brings. A blessing that represents a part of who you are and what you wish for yourself, for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills, and our wider faith movement.

When you pour your water into the bowl I hope you may feel that:

– It is a powerful outward sign of the strength you pledge to our spiritual community. It is a sign that you are a part of our living into our call as a Unitarian Universalist congregation: affirming the worth of dignity of every person; creating an environment of compassion and justice in the places in which we minister; and respecting the interdependence we share with the earth and those which live upon it.

– It is received with gratitude, for the blessing you are to our congregation and this world.

We are embarking on another year of shared ministry in a world that we know all too well is in desperate need of a resounding message of hope and love. It is a world of complexity that is asking for us to stand alongside uncertainty with openness & respect and with a dedication to justice and equity. It is a real world, not a fantasy. There is no wizard or magical being that will swoop in and save the day. Our world needs those that will choose to commit to give their lives to something greater than oneself. I understand Water Communion to be such a commitment ceremony.

As we move forward in our ministry may we do so with great love and rich in blessings. I look forward to seeing you Sunday! Rev. Jennifer

P Seeger River

Image and design by Jess Cullinan.

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