Over the twenty plus years of my life as a clergy person, I have learned to talk often and easily about sacrament and ritual, about liturgy, forgetting that these words which might be second nature in a church context, are not otherwise commonplace. I forget, too, that even as I entered seminary, I had no language with which to engage my books, my classes, my professors, or my fellow students. Everyone but me seemed to have language. I rarely dared speak for fear of being exposed as the imposter I was.
I wrote about it in Confessions of a Fake Priest.
I bought The Story Bible, Pearl S. Buck’s two-volume series on the Old and New Testaments. I asked my friend Dick, “What does liturgy mean?” And when he began to expound philosophically and historically, I interrupted him, “No. What does the word liturgy mean?”
In September, the new students met as a group, and we introduced ourselves. Everyone knew what they were doing. Everyone knew why they were there. Everyone was called. Everyone but me. I approached a woman who exuded a confidence born of a sure and certain authority.
“Hi. My name’s Caroline.” I stuck out my hand and she had to take it.
Too flustered to make intelligent conversation and too flustered to go, I asked her the question that was searing its way into my brain. “So, why do you want to be ordained?”
The woman was shorter than I to begin with, but by the time she had puffed herself up, I had become altogether insignificant, both in stature and in meaning. She looked at me for what seemed like hours before she answered, and it was on the tip of my tongue to apologize when she said, “It’s all sacramental, of course.”
Oh. Of course. How silly of me.
Later I called my friend Dick. “What’s a sacrament?”
The question I am holding is this: what will be the sacramental and ritual language for the space between . . . ? What is the sacred language of the earth, the waters, the wind, and fire? Where do we begin?
Not long ago I was interviewed on a talk radio program called The Green Divas. This is how they describe themselves: Host Green Diva Meg and a variety of Green Diva Correspondents throughout the US offer information on green or sustainable living from a guilt-free, low-stress perspective making information accessible to a broad audience using credible information, humor and technology.
Not a word about sacrament and ritual. I panicked. What if I were asked to define sacrament. By this time I was screaming at my husband Jim. How would I define it in an uncomplicated way? Where is my friend Dick when I most need him? Dictionaries refer to the bread and wine of holy communion; they refer to the sacrament of baptism. Churches define it as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”
This is an audience that recycles, that replaces Deet-laden mosquito repellant with something non-toxic, an audience that wears clothing of cotton, linen, and bamboo, an audience that would never dream of dousing pesky nettles with Round-up. Never mind talking about things of the spirit.
Finally I remembered to breathe.
During the twenty or so minutes of the interview I was reminded of what I already know. There are untold numbers of people – myself included – who want truly to talk about and celebrate things of the spirit. Just not in churches. People who understand the spirit nature of the earth herself, who have not been encouraged to discover alternative avenues of expression.
So, what is the language of the Space Between . . .? How do we shape a holy language that is not rendered inaccessible by the theological and doctrinal language of religions? How do we speak of the mysteries, the patterns, the rituals of the earth community? How do we celebrate them? How do we offer thanks?
My greatest hope for this website is that it serve as a resource for sacred ritual designed especially for the space between . . . The invitation is to you, to share earth celebrations, water rituals, etc. As I close this post, I want to lift up the definition Harvey Cox gives to ritual. It’s the best I’ve heard, and speaks to the heart of the space between . . . “rituals are enactments – in song, story, visual representation, and gesture – of the narratives that inform a people’s identity.”
How wide open is that! How filled with possibility! What are the earth-centered narratives that have shaped our lives – some universal, some regional. What songs shall we use, what poetry, what visuals shall we use?
In my next blog post, I plan to offer an excerpt from The Space Between Church & Not-Church ~ A Sacramental Vision for the Healing of our Planet. It describes the putting together of sacred ritual to celebrate a neighborhood’s successful efforts in the restoration of a local pond.
In the meantime, back to the Green Divas. The morning of the show, my husband and I had the opportunity to hike along Adams Creek, in Dingmans’s Ferry, Pennsylvania, through one of the last stands of virgin timber in the state. As we dangled our feet in the still frigid water, I wrote a simple blessing for the Divas and their audience, which I offered at the end of the show.
May we be planted by the waters,
a planting so deep that our roots sink down into the rich moist earth
until we stand on solid rock.
May our minds and hearts know the intimate touch of the wind,
our faces the heat and healing power of the sun.
Until we know ourselves as one with all life.
Getting started need not be any more complicated than this.