Ingathering by Rev. Taryn Strauss

Summer is passing, school begins, and the Fall fast approaches. The Water Celebration is a way to mark this momentous time of endings and beginnings.

It was a gift to us all from out of the spirituality of Unitarian Universalist women, whose wonder was inspired by the fact that water is one of the most important things there is.

It makes its mark in so many ways.

Eons ago life was born out of it.

Life is virtually impossible without it.

And it is powerful.

Give it enough time and it will carve stone,

It will leave grand canyons in its wake.

But water is also a symbol of surpassing beauty.  It resonates.  It symbolizes the depths of the spiritual life, as when we sing “There’s a river flowing in my soul” or when the poet says, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

And then there’s the way water symbolizes Beloved Community. “As drops of rain that find each other and build to become a track, a rivulet, a stream, a river, a sea, so are we drawn together; so are we fortunate to find each other; so are we bound together, on this shared passage toward an unknown ocean and eternity.”

What orients you in a new place, or a new community?

Moving to Atlanta, I looked to the left of me- no water

I looked to the right of me, no water

I looked to the north, no water

I looked to the south, no water

It was then I realized all my life I have lived in cities centered around water.  In Chicago, there was Lake Michigan and the Chicago river.  In Knoxville, there was the Tennessee River.  In Asheville, the French Broad River.  In New York City, well, water was everywhere.

Atlanta, as you know, is a rail town, and its most notable feature are its glorious, tall Hickory, Maple, River Birch trees that make up the canopy we rely on in weeks such as these.

Our nearest water source, the Chattahoochee River, is not in the center of the city, but it is 430 miles of flowing glory, home to over 20 different species of fish, supporting a vast ecosystem.

Parenting twin toddlers through all their extreme mood swings, James and I have a phrase we repeat:  Be the stone in the rushing river.

But other seasons and places in our lives, we must be like the river. Flowing, following the liturgical year, following the pull of a current that calls us towards a common destiny.  Twisting, turning, we surrender to a flow that carries each of us.  There is a season to let yourself be carried, to drop into a powerful force, pulling you along.  What do you need to let go, as the program year begins?

What are you holding on to, what keeps you pushing back, like the stone pushing past the river’s flow? Ponder what is in your heart, release what you need to release, and use this as moment to remember your commitment to faith, to community, and to going with the flow.  There are times to swim against the current, but this is the time to let go, and release what is needed to find strength and beauty in the common flow of the current.

This is why the Water Celebration is a Moment to remember and reconnect We end the summer and begin a new program year inspired by the many meanings of water helping us remember what our purpose is.

Our purpose is to be like water, and channel power.

To give life.

To go deep.

To flow toward Beloved Community.

As the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed says, “The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and our strength too limited to do all that must be done. Together, our vision widens, and our strength is renewed.”

Let this be on our minds, as now we complete the Water Celebration.