New Rituals

This Sunday will mark our third year celebrating Water Communion at Virginia-Highland Church. Last year, Miss Blanche, who is closer to 100 than to 90, led the procession to bring water to the chancel. I asked her if she would bring the water that Bill collected from the River Jordan during our honeymoon. That was one of the most beautifully sacred moments in my church life. I thought I was handling it all pretty well until she started down the aisle on the arm of a deacon and the entire congregation started to sob simultaneously.

This year won’t be nearly so dramatic, but members young and old will bring their water to the altar from their homes or their travels. It will blend together then be purified and become the holy water of our congregation. We will use it to renew our baptismal vows, baptize babies, anoint wedding couples, bless departing members and families’ new homes, and more. My water this year comes from the new church to which I am going. It feels like a good way to knit these two places together in my heart.

Water Communion is an idea I borrowed from my Unitarian friends. It marks the end of our summer and the coming together of our community to start a new season of growth and service. It is a new ritual for us, but one that quickly became incredibly powerful, appropriate, and meaningful.

I’ve discovered that creating new rituals is a very important thing. I hope all the people of Virginia-Highland Church will be present Sunday to participate in this one, but I also hope that you will think about what kind of new rituals you can create with the people you love.

I recently made the very difficult decision to leave a church, city, state, and home I love. It felt like I needed new rituals, new ways to re-sacramentalize my life. The hopes and dreams of a lifetime died abruptly last year. The life I knew and loved with Bill came to an end. The choice is to live in the fading memory of what was and might have been, or to take what has been and use it to create what might be.

That sounds much more hopeful and deliberate than I’m feeling. Still, to quote a line from my favorite movie, I need to “get busy living or get busy dying.” Although I don’t really feel it yet, I’ve made the choice to explore the possibilities the future MIGHT hold. New rituals are a good thing, and it is time for me to prove it. Perhaps it is time for you to do the same.


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