Water Ceremony – Origin

Water Ceremony CoverWater Ceremony Worship Service, November 1980 – Original Worship Service

SUMMARY: The water ritual is one of the most practiced UU ceremonies today. Although most churches and fellowships incorporate a form of this ritual in their gatherings, few credit Lucile and Carolyn McDade and the UU Women’s movement with introducing it. Below is Lucile’s account of how this ritual was conceived and a link to the ritual is in its original form. The original is more complex than the one used today, allowing those participating to go into some of their deeper feelings.  Despite Lucile’s opinion that this lack of credit  was another example of women being written out of history, Lucile was pleased that so many adopted the Water Ceremony, even in its briefer form, into their religious gatherings.. It is important, however, to  be careful the ceremony does not devolve into a report of “what I did on my summer vacation.”

From The Impact of Women’s Experience on Feminist Theology

Lucile describes how she and Carolyn McDade conceived the Water Ritual: 

“And finally I’ll speak of one ritual — the Water Ritual which Carolyn McDade and I developed as part of a Worship Service , “Coming Home Like Rivers to the Sea.”  I quote from our shared comment about it.

“We were beginning to reach for new and inclusive symbols and rituals that speak to our connectedness to one another, to the totality of life and to our place on this planet. We moved in an intuitive response to the potential of water as a symbol  of woman’s spirituality. Its universality emerged with our increased awareness of its presence and deep meaning in our lives.

“The vital parts of the ritual are the bringing of the waters by a representative group of those present, the sharing of the meaning of the water that each individual has brought, the mingling of the waters in a common bowl and the taking of the waters for one’s continued connection with the other participants.

“Creating the service had a special value in what it gave to Carolyn and me. It brought us together for many hours of sharing and conversation, planning, creating, critiquing, clarifying-­ it called us to articulation, to pulling our scarcely formed thoughts into words. We each spoke them back with added meaning. It was a bonding and empowering experience for both of us.”

The Water Ritual — full text

2 Replies to “Water Ceremony – Origin”

  1. At the end of September, at Chimney Corners, in Frankfort, Michigan, Carolyn reminded all the women present that The Water Ritual was intended for the empowerment of women. I’m recommending to the MidAmerica Region and the UUA that women reclaim the ritual and perform it at the regional annual meeting and the association’s annual meeting next year.

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