Cherry Hill Seminary – Samhain

Cherry Hill Seminary published the Samhain edition of its newletter highlighting spring course offerings and regular online events.

Cherry Hill Seminary empowers spiritual leadership, scholarship, and ethics through theological and pastoral education to nurture interfaith engagement in a diverse society.  For more information, visit www.cherryhillseminary.org , or click here to email us.

Spiritual Potluck is a weekly gathering for a virtual hour of reflection, ritual and sharing, email for link to attend.

Reclaiming Samhain Ritual 2020

Reclaiming is offering it Samhain ritual celebration online this year on October 31 at 1 pm PACIFIC time. Their announcement has links under How to Participate for anyone interested.

On October 31 — Halloween —  at 1 p.m. PST, the 41st Annual Reclaiming Spiral Dance will be streamed online at: www.reclaimingspiraldance.org

Intention: In the midst of uncertainty and the unknown, we come together to call forth the rains of justice and renewal.

[Fortunately, even with a 4 pm Eastern time start, there should be plenty of time to participate in this event AND in the Sacred Grove Samhain ritual via Zoom at 9 pm.]

John Beckett on Samhain

Is Samhain coming, or is it already here? The answer is a little bit of both.

For those of you who are new to Paganism, Samhain is one of the four ancient Celtic fire festivals, along with Imbolc (February 1), Beltane (May 1), and Lughnasadh (August 1). The word means “summer’s end” – it marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter. In modern Pagan lore it’s the third and final harvest festival. It’s a time to think about the reality of death, and to remember our loved ones who have died.

This 2014 post by Jason Mankey has all the history of the day and the season, and it describes how we got from there (i.e. – ancient Ireland) to here.

Samhain 2020

After several very quiet years, Sacred Grove Community Circle (SWC) is exploring celebrating the rites of the seasons more consistently through the use of ZOOM, beginning with a somewhat open circle on Samhain. We will invite a number of people via email and provide the instructions for joining, then be prepared to proceed with whatever number of people join us.

Anyone who would like to participate is welcome to email Webweaver@SacredGroveSWC.org to request an invitation.

We are working on adapting the traditional Bhakti-Wiccan ritual format to this new environment. We have recently updated the website SacredGroveSWC.org for easier reference, and details on the ritual format are included there in the Book of Shadows. In particular, Finding Our Way to the Grove provides a quick introduction.

For Samhain this year, our Working will be a version of Rest for the Warrior, which I’m sure will be welcome to all of us in the stress of Covid-19 and (US) election politics. As the Veil is thinning, I hope the Beloved Dead will find their way to join with us. They will be welcome.

The Lord & Lady, in Perspective

In the Bhakt-Wiccan Tradition of the Fellowship of the Sacred Grove, as in the Greencraft Tradition of Sacred Well Congregation, the Lord and Lady are familiar and beloved faces of the Divine, of Ultimate Reality. They are God and Goddess of our spirituality and religion.

But the Sacred Grove welcomes all who would join us respectfully approaching that which we all hold to be real and personal and important, despite the limitations of human language. And so we offer perspectives by which you might look through our traditional language and see the Ultimate Reality you understand. Certainly there are more and other perspectives; here are seeds for thought.

In the Abrahamic traditions, One God is central and is called by many names. The Lord may be familiar and comes associated with a male gender. The Lady had a long and often forbidden history. Would you be comfortable seeing “Lord & Lady” as another of the many names of God?

For my part, having grown to adulthood in the Christian Tradition before encountering the Goddess, I had difficulty as a chaplain speaking the language of the Trinity with Christians until i made peace in my own understanding that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could be Infinite, Incarnate, and Indwelling aspects of the Divine.

Hard polytheists might see the Lord as a category inclusive of the gods of their understanding and the Lady as a category inclusive of the goddesses, or you may see them as particular deities of your devotion. Soft polytheists may see them as encompassing all gods and goddesses between them.

The chant

Isis, Osiris, Woden and Freya; Lord and Lady, Brigid and Lugh

https://sacred-texts.com/bos/bos593.htm

is part of our Tradition.

Atheists, agnostics, and others who are not accustomed to personifying the overarching concepts of Ultimate Reality, be reassured that we are not invoking or speaking for an omnipotent sky daddy, nor are we promulgating any absolute authority. We seek to learn through individual personal experience, and we recognized that each of us will experience our journey together differently. We value the richness that comes of our interaction, both with our human companions and with the unSeen that accompany them. Can you allow yourself, when we are between the worlds together, to understand our Lord & Lady to represent all the myriad connections, patterns, unseen entities, and richness that make up and hold All That Is together?

Out of that marvelous complexity, can you let what is real, personal, and important for you speak for itself?

Planning for Autumn Equinox Grove

Updated 10/15/2020: It didn’t happen. Maybe I can pull it together for Samhain.

It’s time for the Grove to manifest itself anew in the age of pandemic. Tools are available and being used to meet in cyberspace, and we are forging ahead. The plan is to schedule our Sabbats for the coming year, by date and time, and set up Zoom gatherings for the observance.

Invitations to participate will include the ritual structure, and attendees will be offered the opportunity to Claim the Space, while the wording is made available on screen. Host will act as Bard and Priest, at least at first.

Invitations will be distributed, at least, by email and through the Facebook Grove page. Respondents by email will be sent the link.

Priestess will establish the Zoom meeting at the specified date and time, then admit attendees, who will be welcome to chat. Once Bard begins Warnings, no others will be admitted.

Still working on the particulars of the ritual. It will be geared toward the Wheel of the Year and probably, at least at first, be of a participatory Journey format.

Watch this space — more to follow.

Sometimes it needs to be said

Cleaning house, I found a Facebook post from ‘way back with a prayer that resonates with me and which I share because so many suffer from fear of Hell, even when their theology no longer supports the concept.

If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Lock me out of Paradise.

But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.

Everyone prays to You from fear of the Fire;
And if You do not put them in the Fire,
This is their reward.
Or they pray to You for the Garden,
Full of fruits and flowers.
And that is their prize.
But I do not pray to You like this,
For I am not afraid of the Fire,
And I do not ask You for the Garden.
But all I want is the Essence of Your Love,
And to return to be One with You,
And to become Your Face.

Rabi’a al Basri, a Sufi saint who died 814 CE

On Ministry of Presence in Covid Time

For my fellow chaplains

I had a particular leading of Spirit that resulted in a reflection for Good Friday and the 7 Last Words. In particular, I was drawn to Mark 15:34, the Aramaic version of the cry of Jesus from the Cross to the God he felt had abandoned him to die in agony, alone. I wonder if we do not encounter this very human depth of despair, even unspoken, in our work or lives. We sometimes find ourselves in the presence of that despair that cries for reconnection to the Presence, and our hands, too, are tied.

So that reflection does not go to waste, you are my congregation. May Peace be with you.

Let me set the scene.

In the ritual of Holy Week, we reflect on the completion of the ministry of Jesus by joining ourselves in the experiences of that time. Good Friday relives his torture and execution for the crime of sedition, which was punished in those days by crucifixion. Jesus is tried by religious and civil authorities, scourged, with a crown made of thorny vines jammed into his head, and made to carry the cross on which he will be executed through the streets of Jerusalem to the place where many are already hanging in the hot sun.

Our reflection begins after his clothes have been stripped from him, he has been nailed through wrists and feet to the cross, the cross has been hoist upright and its base dropped into a hole. Above his head, a sign proclaims “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

We are present and stand witness to the completion of his three years of ministry.

“Eloi? Eloi! Lama sabachthani?” (“My God?  My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”)

Mark 15:34

In our hearts, we can imagine the depths of pain and anguish of that prayer. We can hear his unspoken words:

“Where are you, Father? Why have you left me … hanging here all alone?

“Abba, what did I do? Wasn’t I good enough?”

“Where are you? Abba?”

No one else heard God’s reply, and some didn’t even understand the question. The Scriptures are silent.

But in our hearts, with Jesus, even now, we can hear echoes of his Father’s reply:

“I am here, with you, Son. In you, through you, now and always. You are my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

“The worst is over, Beloved. Just a few more breaths, and your mission is complete. You are coming Home.”

“Feel me here within you Breathe me in, now. With each breath let me fill you.”

“Exhale. Give me your fears. Blow out your pain. Give them back to me.”

“Inhale. Fill yourself again with my Presence.”

“Open your eyes, my Son. Look down. You are not alone.”

“Breathe in my Love.”

“Be here now. Just a few more breaths. See the others who suffer with you?”

“Behold, your mother, your beloved, who would not leave you here alone.”

“Fill yourself with me and let that Light shine on them.”

“Breathe in my Strength. You are my Voice. Lead them through this Hell.”

“You are my Beloved. Just a few more breaths.”

“We are One, and you are coming Home.”

Jesus finds the composure and strength to use the control he still has over his life and his words. He can breathe, with increasing difficulty. He can speak. He need not wait alone, in agony, for the slow approach of Death.

With Divine inspiration, he speaks:

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

 Luke 23:34 

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Luke 23:43 

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Luke 23:46 

Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!:

 John 19:26-27

I thirst.

 John 19:28 

It is finished

John 19:30 

My Reflection on this Experience

After all the words and acts and turmoil of his ministry in Galilee and its endgame in Jerusalem, Jesus has been brought to a full stop. A sudden, devastating silence.

Last night, after a ritual and working supper with his followers, he had prayed fervently that he could be spared this suffering, but, if it must be, he accepted it. He had asked his closest friends to be with him in prayer, but they had fallen asleep and left him alone. And now he is alone, again. In agony and terror, bereft of meaning or hope. Is God mocking him, too?

In overwhelming pain and tormented by the wounds of trauma in the very recent past, Jesus is bewildered and powerless to help himself, to find any measure of calm or peace. He has only his voice, and with what breath he has, he calls for help. Not for physical help, taking away the pain, relieving the merciless strife between gravity pulling his body down and the nails through his flesh resisting that pull. He calls for hope that all this suffering is not a cruel joke, that the loving Father God who led him into this is still with him. His cry sounds almost angry, almost like he is accusing God of betrayal.

In my mind’s eye, giving voice to the question with Jesus, I was also hearing others in moments of pain and despair, breathing the shortest of prayers: “Oh, God!” Or even the newborn, suddenly exposed to light and sound and breezes and a totally changed world, crying out in shock and surprise. Or myself, once, as an overwhelmed mother with two messily sick babies and my own devastating case of the flu, whimpering quietly, “I want my Mommy.” Wanting Someone, somehow, to make it better.

Asking a question opens the mind to receiving an answer. And the God of Love, the Heavenly Father that Jesus had brought to the people who followed him through Galilee and Judea, would not have left him to suffer unto death alone.

But what would God have answered? What could Jesus hear in his heart that could help at all in that agony? What would I say, in all Love and Compassion, or what would I want to hear?

I fell back on the training I have had as a crisis response chaplain, on how to help when the unthinkable has happened. How do you approach someone who is in shock, when all meaning and hope for even the next breath have fled in the face of terror and anguish?

God reaches out to touch Jesus, to connect with Jesus, through the air, through his breathing. Jesus will feel the air he gasps into his lungs; let feeling that air become feeling God’s Presence; and let Jesus turn his attention to that feeling, to seeking more of that Divine inspiration. And give Jesus a way to unload the heavy burdens he no longer needs to carry; let him give them back to his Father; let him even throw them back at his Father. Which will trigger yet another inspiration of the Divine Presence.

Death will not come swiftly; crucifixion is intentionally horrible in that regard. How to help Jesus through the Hell ahead of him? Bring his focus back to this moment; not the past that got him here; and not apprehension of what is yet to come. Help him open his eyes to the moment. He is not alone. Somewhat refreshed, the old reflexes return. There are people at his feet with needs only he can fill. With the measure of reassurance that his Father is still with him, that he is Loved and accepted and has done well, and with the return of a small measure of personal agency, Jesus uses the last of his human life as his Father’s Voice to complete his mission.

Thanks be to God.

7 April 2020

Sandra Lee Harris, MDiv

On call chaplain, IFMC

Chaplain, Fairfax County Community Chaplain Corps

Priest, Sacred Grove Community Circle (SWC)

Where are the church ladies …

when we need them?

Haven’t we all heard someone say, in response to a very human need, “Well, where is the church in all of this?  Should they be stepping up to ….?”

And, of course, my head immediately answers for me, “Which church?  How is this _____’s problem?”

Sure, if you’re a decently-sized, well-funded religious organization and troubles descend on one of your own, you may well have a function established to come to the rescue with food, clothing, shelter, social support, advocacy, and the other things that help folks through a crisis.  Maybe you’ll even stretch your compassion to folks not of your particular belief system or at least who are your own but rarely show up or donate.

But the troubles of the world can fall on any of us, regardless of any other considerations.  There are government agencies and such set up to minister to those needs — complete with criteria, qualifications, paperwork, bureaucracy, delays — and denials.  People in dire need can fall through the cracks quite easily.  And no one or several decently-sized, however well funded religious or charitable organizations can rise in response to every need — although they are less hobbled by rules and regulations than anything governmental.

Where does Sacred Grove come into this rant?

We are exploring the role of the small, informally-gathered religious community filling the various roles expected of a church/ congregation/ circle, given no building, no secure funding source, no fixed membership, and only the choice to join with each other in appreciation of all that is real and personal and important about the divine connections in our lives — where the Divine lives and breathes in the infinite connections of the Sacred Web of Life.

This is a new persona for a church — this amorphous webspinning eclectic group.  It is not confined to a single place or area — we are scattered as widely as the internet, yet we are as personal as individual commitment and action or two people talking it over.

We have a few resources that empower us as a church that we would not have as individuals: We have an identity that has stood the test of time, at least on the East Coast: The Fellowship of the Sacred Grove has been a visible and respected contributor to the Pagan community since 1989. We have a legal and effective association with a larger and more widespread Wiccan organization — Sacred Well Congregation — that has successfully managed the bureaucratic requirements at the federal level for years, through which the IRS knows us as a 501(c)3 religious charitable organization.

In the name of Sacred Grove Community Circle (SWC), we can stand with other churches and participate in community activities, provide clerical credentials for clergy visiting hospitals in our name, accept charitable donations to support our service to individuals and communities, and maintain our Facebook page and this website as the hub of our web.

What has Sacred Grove been doing lately?

I’m so glad you asked.

We are providing social support, spiritual support, and random material resources to several individuals in crisis who have fallen through the aforementioned cracks — and learning more about the plight of the poor, abused, disabled, and homeless with every step.  We have helped a few others out, here and there.  We what we can to help folks over an obstacle or through a critical door, then cheer as they continue on their way.

We support one chaplain volunteering in a Level 1 trauma center.

We are actively working with public safety chaplains in a county chaplain corps and in the Washington-Baltimore area military and civilian chaplains in disaster readiness and resilience.

We are partnered with Rising Sun Outreach Ministry to provide care for the caregivers.

We hang out with the Religious Tolerance group on Facebook and contribute the services of one moderator, helping ease the tensions and build pathways of communication among people of all religions or none.

What can I do to help?

We have a Paypal account which will accept donations, which will be acknowledged with thanks and a receipt.  Other than the minor expenses of maintaining the web presence, our funds are disbursed directly and swiftly where the need is greatest.

Visit us on Facebook — start a conversation!   Express a need.  Share some ideas.  https://www.facebook.com/SacredGroveSWC/

Email me at RedBird@SacredGroveSWC.org

PM me on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/Sandra.Lee.Harris

 

 

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