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Water Communion Ritual for Justice-Making

As we learned at General Assembly (GA) 2013 in Louisville, water communions can be a unique and significant social justice practice for Unitarian Universalists.

This ceremony was designed to be part of a larger service about interdependence, justice, or commitment. For Water Communion rituals with an explicit focus on in-gathering at the beginning of the fall, please see “A Ritual for Ingathering Water Communion Services”.

Reflection

All life on Earth requires water. Water is an integral component to our own bodies. Water allows plants and trees to grow, it helps create the food we eat, and water falls down from the sky to wash over everything; rain which can clear our mind and clean our cars, or homes, our sidewalks and streets. The oceans are home to millions of kinds of life, many of which are still a mystery to us. Lakes and creeks are the home of some of our happy memories. And many of us go down to the river to pray.

Water, though a source of all life, can also be dangerous and challenging. With increasing ferocity due to climate change, water, in the form of storms and floods, ocean waves, ice and snow, can kill people and cause serious harm to communities and infrastructure. Water can be contaminated, carrying germs and poison into our communities and other communities that are far away.  Every human being has the right to clean water, and yet many wars are fought and communities are marginalized because people do not have access to non-polluted water.

When was the last time you were close to water? Do you carry a water bottle with you? Did you drive over a river to get here today?  When was the last time that snow or rain fell on your face or your shoulders? Do you remember what it feels like to jump happily into a pool or a lake, and feel the water surround you with quietness and coolness? When was the last time you were afraid of water, when you saw a flood over the road in front of you, or when the thunderstorm pounded on your windows?

We, human beings, occupy a unique place in the eco-systems and societies that depend on water. Water, like our own lives, is a unique gift from the earth that we must care for and cherish. We are called to be responsible stewards of our lives, of each other lives, and of water and the earth.

Each one of us has a body that is mostly made of water. Like water, we all have power to both sustain life and to cause harm. What do you carry within you that can be a powerful force to sustain life? What do you carry within you that requires respect and care?  

What do you see in your community that can be a powerful force to sustain life? What do you see around you that requires respect and care?

The water that we hold in our hands is the same water that we hold in our bodies, which is the same water that rains down upon our shoulders, which is the same water that is sometimes polluted. This water can be of storms and of tears and of irrigation towers and of morning dew.  For us this morning, the water that you hold in your hand can represent that within you that is a powerful force to sustain life, or something within us which demands care and respect. It can also represent something that we see around us, in our congregation or in our towns, which can sustain life or something which challenges life around us.

We pause together in this vital moment to recognize our place among the interdependence of all things. Life flows like a river over all things, changing and abundant, and we go with it like drops of water: significant and assembled.

What is the water that you bring?

Blending Waters

As you are willing and able, please come forward to add the water you carry with you.

Participants bring vials of water and empty them into a large container. Invite some participants to share brief, pre-written reflection on one of these questions:

  • What do you carry within you that can be a powerful force to sustain life?
  • What do you carry within you that requires respect and care?  
  • What do you see in your community that can be a powerful force to sustain life?
  • What do you see around you that requires respect and care?

Closing Comments

Life flows like a river over all things, changing and abundant, and we go with it like drops of water: significant and assembled.  We bring many things to our community, and our community brings many things to us. Let us use these gifts to foster and renew life, to bring ourselves to the work of justice-making. Let this water help us recognize the interdependence of each life with all lives, of us here and others gathered near and far away. Let the momentum continue, let these ripples widen and widen until justice falls down like water and peace like an ever-flowing stream.

Litany: “Standing on the Side of Love: We Are One
By Rev. Fred Small

We are one.

One people.
One community.
One earth.
One spirit.
We are one.

The coalfield family flooded out of their home by mountaintop removal.
The baby with asthma who lives in the shadow of a coal-fired power plant.
The miner with black lung.
We are one.

The family whose drinking water is poisoned by fracking.
The sick mother in Cancer Alley.
The grandfather dead of heat stroke in another record heat wave.
We are one.

The Katrina victim in Louisiana.
The Sandy victim in New Jersey.
The refugee displaced by flood waters in Bangladesh.
We are one.

The hunter whose family goes hungry because game has disappeared.
The worker who can’t get to a job because bus service was cut.
The retiree who can’t pay the heating bill.
We are one.

The young woman who fears bringing a child into the world.
The adult who fears growing old.
The child who fears growing up.
We are one.

The coal companies, the oil companies, the energy conglomerates want to keep us apart.
They don’t want us talking to each other.
They don’t want us caring for one another.
We are one.

Today we close the circle.
Today we break the silence.
Today we find our voice.
We are one.

Today we listen to one another.
Today we speak out for justice.
Today we stand on the side of love.
We are one.

We will heal our wounded communities.
We will heal our wounded earth.
We will heal our wounded souls.
We are one.

We will dwell in beauty.
We will abide in love.
We will see the sacred in all.

We are one.

Songs/Hymns

  • “As I Went Down to the River to Pray”
  • “Wade in the Water” #210 Singing the Living Tradition
  • “I’ve Got Peace Like a River” #100 Singing the Living Tradition
  • “We’ll Build A Land” #121 Singing the Living Tradition
  • “Blue Boat Home” #1064 Singing the Journey

For more information contact environment@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Saturday, June 15, 2013.

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