Water ingathering ceremony

The words below were used by Rev. Dan Harper to introduce the annual water ingathering ceremony at First Unitarian Church in New Bedford. As usual, what is below is a reading text. Text copyright (c) 2007 Daniel Harper.

Introduction to water ingathering

Water links all persons together in the cycle of life. Let me explain how that is literally true. A human being contains on the order of 10 to the 27th molecules of water — 10 to the 27th is a huge number, a one with 27 zeros after it. On an average day, we each probably consume about 10 to the 25th water molecules (that is, if I did my math right), and excrete the same amount. The water that comes out of us continues on in the water cycle, draining into the ocean, evaporating, forming clouds, and raining down again — so you are linked to the ocean and the sky, and to all living things that partake in the water cycle. You can also consider this historically. Since water molecules are pretty much indestructible, and since such a huge number of water molecules passes through us each day, there’s a decent chance that some of the water molecules currently in your body were formerly in the body of Socrates, Gotama Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, and/or Hildegard of Bingen. So it is scientifically true that water links all beings.

It is also poetically true to say that water links us all together. Standing on the edge of the Rio Grande River, the poet Jimmy Santiago Braca writes:

I’ve come here after drinking all night,
come here after betraying myself and others I’ve loved
come here and offered all the shame and guilt to this river,
to take it down river, pouring it out into the Gulf of Mexico
there for the whales to spout it up in the air…
to cleanse it, joining me
    in their wholeness, their completeness.
I breathe part of its being in me….

When we gather here to begin a new church year together, we participate in a ritual gathering of the waters. If you get the church newsletter, you were invited to bring a small amount of water that somehow represents your summer: some of the water you used to water your garden, perhaps; or water from one of the city or town beaches that you visited this summer; or water from a place you visited; or water from a stream or river nearby that is important to you. If you didn’t get the church newsletter, or if you forgot, don’t worry: we have cups of water here for you to use; when your turn comes, you can pour one of these little cups of water into the communal bowl and tell us what it represents from your summer.

Here is how we will do this: Please line up here, to my right and your left. When your turn comes, step up onto the platform. Speak clearly into the microphone, say your name, and tell us in one or two sentences what your water represents. Please be aware that there are lots of people who will want to speak. Tell us just enough to make us curious, so that people will want to approach you during social hour and ask you about your summer.

I’ll start us off. My name is Dan Harper. This I went to visit some cousins I hadn’t seen in twenty years, and this water is from their house….