Water Communion Service: Like Water

Led by Pad McCracken

The water communion is often used as a ritual of ingathering in Unitarian Universalist congregations, a way to welcome folks back after a summer hiatus (we are not the only ones to take the summer off!). It allows an opportunity for people to reflect and take part in a ritual and honor one of the ways we are fundamentally connected and perhaps simply name a special place they visited with some connection to water.

One of the beauties to me of the participatory nature of all of our services—through the sharing of joys and concerns and reflections following the message—is that it helps to foster deeper connection among us. When we are able to hear each other’s celebrations, struggles, and thoughts, it opens a door we may not have known existed. Our weekly coffee hours, monthly potlucks, and other social gatherings are an opportunity to use what we have learned about each other and cross these thresholds, bridging divides, to remind ourselves of our covenantal relationship as a fellowship—that we are here for each other, to strengthen one another in our free search, to encourage spiritual growth.

Physically, we leave one another every week and there are times when we may drift for multiple weeks, months, or even years before stepping again through our Fellowship’s open door. Our summers are a longer hiatus from formal weekly gatherings, but hopefully what we have cultivated all year long is an awareness that we remain there for one another, united in Fellowship despite physical distance.

The water communion can serve as a symbolic reminder that while we may take different forms over time and travel widely, we are still on a fundamental level unified, together, ultimately One. As one of my favorite songwriters reminds us “Oh, you know we are one… we just come different cause that’s more fun.”

I shared this Spring at our Flower Communion service how meaningful the word Namaste is for me as a reminder of our Oneness amidst all the emphasis that is placed “all through the day [on] I, me , mine…” rather than “us, we, ours.” I think the water communion can serve a similar purpose as a reminder that though we take different forms and flow with the unique currents in the streams of our individuality, ultimately there is confluence, regathering, Oneness. All rivers flow to the sea.

We are mostly water, our planet is covered mostly by water. This water over time has cycled across the globe. Each day we bring water into our bodies and cycle it back out in a more constant communion than we ever acknowledge. Did you enter this sanctuary this AM expecting to be counseled on urination? You won’t be, but I will repeat the wise words of Thich Nhat Hahn “every action can be sacred or profane.” This water that enters and leaves us constantly has at times flowed through all kinds of people and all kinds of life. The only more fundamental communion that I can think of is something we are all doing right now—breathing. Let’s take a moment to honor this communion. Will you join me in taking a deep breath in, feeling the air move through your nostrils and mouth, down your windpipe to fill your lungs? Breathing in….. And out….. Once again in….. And out…. Thank you for sharing those fundamental elements with me and many thanks to our plant friends for renewing our vital oxygen.

Some of you may have brought water from a special place, other perhaps didn’t bring water but can conjure a short memory from the summer, much like I asked the children to do, of a moment when you were near, on, or in the water, a moment that brought you particular joy, or a sense of awe, or simply filled you with peace. You are welcome to pour your water or pour from the pitcher, into the common jar, either in silence or speaking briefly as to the significance of the water for you. Participation is not required; you are welcome to join the communion from your seats with your thoughts and presence. If you’d like to take some of the water with you after the service, you are welcome to use one of the jars I brought, and any remaining water will go on our garden to continue the communion in a tasty kale salad, perhaps on a Potluck Sunday!

Some of the water already in the sacred lemonade decanter is water I’ve collected from previous water communions we’ve held, some of the Pacific Ocean that Walkin’ Jim Stoltz collected on his cross-continent walk in 1976. Some from the Smith River. But remember it’s really an illusion that the water in the pitcher is also not from the Pacific or Smith. It, like us, is fundamentally One.

I invite you to take part in the communion. (Following communion, read poem to begin silent meditation)

All Rivers Run to the Sea

By Kayle Rice

It starts with a drop,

Then a trickle…

A burble, a rush of water, bubbling toward its destination;

And finally the wide, endless sea.

All rivers run to the sea.

Today you brought water

Poured it into a common bowl.

Though our experiences have differed,

These waters mingle, signifying our common humanity.

Today you came;

And shared in this sacred community.

May you depart this sacred space,

Hearts filled with hope for new beginnings;

A fresh start.

Go forth, but return to this community,

Where rivers of tears may be shed,

Where dry souls are watered,

Where your joy bubbles,

Where your life cup overflows,

Where deep in your spirit you have found in this place a home.

All rivers run to the sea.

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