Please visit our YouTube channel to watch Rev. Ann Marie’s video recording of this reflection.

Our waters are mingled together today, as are we all, by the call of the Spirit of Love, of Life. 

Many of us think of today as the day we celebrate water in its many forms, even as so many of us know that too much water isn’t something to be happy about. We know that too much water causes trouble in the home, danger from swollen streams and rivers, too much water flowing into streets and basements and underground apartments. Too much water washing away vehicles, appliances, stuff, lives. Too much water too fast causes loss, so much loss, again. 

And we know that the likelihood of too much happening again is just as dangerous as the “not enough water, not enough rain” cycle that is bringing fire after fire on the other side of this country, and around the world. 

There is too much and not enough everywhere we look. It is in our justice-seeking nature as UUs to want to make it all equal, no one having too much, no one without enough.

The water ceremony is not about correcting the state of too much or too little. It is about lifting up the value of what flows among us, what connects us, what brings us together, what changes us. Ingathering is taking stock of the wide variety of who we are this round of being together. It is fitting to combine Ingathering with the Water Ceremony. 

It is fitting to pause and listen for what the spirit among us is saying. What is the spirit calling us to be and to do? To listen and rest comfortably knowing we will have many different answers.

When we come with our containers of water, when we have sent our pictures of bodies of water we floated on or down, after we have collected water in our common bowl, what is it we are saying about why we come together? Why do we begin again in a congregational year based on a school calendar? 

Perhaps so that we may focus on what should we be learning.

First, this day calls us to recognize and appreciate that we are collectively different today than we were last year: Different groups of individuals coming together to make this service different, certainly with two congregations together, different than we were last year, learning to connect across the miles.

Different as individuals, one from another, bringing our differing experiences and perspectives and needs, our communion not unlike the flow of creeks, streams, and rivers, arctic zones into the warming oceans. We use this ritual to recognize change. A changing planet is the nature of this world we live in. And there is too much volume, too much movement, from some sources, and not enough from others. Just like the people we were last year, there were and are mighty rivers that have or soon will dry up and be gone, becoming only a memory. And there are what were tiny, peaceful streams, that have or will overflow their banks with unexpected power, bringing sometimes terrifying results. 

We hope for—more often—life-giving results. 

Within the cycle of too much and not enough, there can come a sweetness, a peace, not unlike what can be found while floating in the warm sun on a still lake. Many come here to this hour on Sunday mornings to rest in that sense of union, to remember it, to recreate it again, to find it for the first time. 

Many come to seek comfort amidst the anguish of drowned dreams, the storm that won’t end.

The storm is passing over, the old hymn says, except:

The storm has not passed over just yet, has it?
Here, for this time together,
We rest in the eye of the storm
We gather not as a changed people, but as a changing people.

Here in the eye of the storm—
The calm, common center
The place where the pressure reduces
Where the winds die down

We are finding one another, near and far,
In new ways of being together,
Again and again and again
We gather not as a changed people, but as a changing people.

At once, we find an empty seat
And a new face.
We see new gray hairs,
And yet others who have grown
Five inches taller since last we met here.
New lines of worry are on our furrowed brows,
Visible on the Zoom screen or above a mask.

We gather not as a changed people, but as a changing people.
Looking up the walls of the cyclone
We see towers of clouds and rain and wind
Held up around this hour by the forces of circling chaos.
Because the storm has not passed over after all.

And so, we gather not as a changed people, but as a changing people.
Here in the eye, the pressure goes down.
The winds die down.
Perhaps we glimpse the sun,
Comforted even as we know that this pause is temporary.

We take a moment,
A breath,
To join together

We gather not as a changed people, but as a changing people.
Knowing that this is but a moment.
Grateful beyond measure for this moment.

I am grateful for all of you gathered here in this moment in this virtual space made holy by your presence.


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