Water Communion

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Many Unitarian Universalist congregations mark the late summer/early fall with a Water Communion service, which invites everyone to bring water from their summer (travels/journeys/adventures) and pour their water together into a communal bowl.  The symbolism is easy: every drop is important, our individual life streams flow into the life of one community, water is in a constant dance around the world and connects us all, water is the essence of life and without it we would not exist.

I really like the Water Communion, but I also recognize that it is not without its difficulties.  A good argument for how it can be classist was written here.  The congregation I serve has (partly) overcome the travelogue by calling people up as though they are coming (symbolically) from one of the four directions or the center.  The music director sings a little “Spirit of the East” call, the celebrant describes the characteristics of that direction (East is the direction of new beginnings , etc.), and anyone who feels they are coming from that direction comes forward and takes their turn pouring their water in and saying a little bit about it.  This encourages folks to mark other things besides world travel: the last water I took from the tap of my home before I sold it to another family, the water from the bottom of my fishing boat, etc.

There is still an element of travelogue, which can be very classist (and it can be long and boring when people ramble, one after another.)  And there is also a note of assumption that we have been “gone” all summer – when in fact our summer services remain well-attended and we even stay at two services per Sunday all through the summer now – but the ritual is from a time when people didn’t come to church in the summer.

 

And yet, despite those difficulties, I still like the water communion. (Perhaps because it’s one of the only worship services I get to attend all year?)

 

Like a drop of water, joining a stream and flowing to the ocean, we come together to join our lives in community.

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