Reflections from Our Water Ceremony

Reflection by Rev. Diane Rollert, 12 September 2016

This year we interspersed several stories, readings and reflections during the pouring out of water for our water communion to express our many experiences from the summer. Here is one piece from the reflection on Rest and Renewal.

Yesterday morning, I received an email from the father of one of the two Syrian refugee families we are in the process of sponsoring. He began by saying he hoped I had enjoyed my vacation. He then went on to share his anxiety. It has been three months since they had their medical examinations and still no word about when they might be coming to Canada. Conditions, he said, were getting very difficult. He hoped he’d hear from me soon.

Within a few minutes of receiving his message, I received an email from a Pakistani family who also wrote wishing me well and hoping that I’ve had a good vacation. They are currently in Bangkok, having had to flee Karachi when the father was wrongly accused of blasphemy. They are friends of a friend. They are struggling to survive in Thailand where they are not allowed to work. Is there any way we could help them come to Canada?

Quand je reçois ces courriels des familles qu’on est en traîne de parrainer, ou d’autres personnes qui vivent dans les circonstances impossibles, et qui cherchent notre aide parce que je suis une pasteure, parce qu’on est une église, mon coeur est brisé. 

It is so painful to receive these messages. We’ve been patiently waiting to hear from the government about both Syrian families we are sponsoring. All we’ve learned is what these families know already. The results of their medical exams have been received and their file is in process. Hurry up and wait is the constant message we receive. As for the Pakistani family, I’ve let them know that we’re not in a position to help right now, but I’ll see what contacts I can make among other organizations here. If you have any ideas, please let me know. They’ve written back to me saying, “Thank you for at least responding. Many people don’t even do that much.”

I’ve had a great vacation. An amazing vacation travelling with our grown children to Italy for the first time in ten years. We’ve traveled freely and safely across the oceans. We gathered with my husband’s extended family in Northern Italy. The older generation is gone now, but the younger generation has grown up. They’ve had their own children who now want to stay connected to our children. We all have the luxury of embracing each other in person, of sharing meals and laughter.

La semaine dernière, j’ai passé aussi une fin de semaine glorieuse à L’Isle-Verte, une petite île au milieu du fleuve Saint-Laurent. C’est un lieu qui c’est peu touché par la civilisation, où on peut vivre sans soucis, sans penser des problèmes qui existent ailleurs dans le monde. Pour trois jours chaque année, on est paisiblement gâté, déchargé de tout. Je le sais, je suis privilégiée.

But I feel as though I don’t have enough. I want to get on a plane and fly both Syrian families here myself. I want to set up a sponsorship for the family in Bangkok. But I can’t. So I live with my frustration and my feeling of guilt that I have so much privilege. And I live with faith that the two Syrian families we’ve agreed to sponsor will be coming soon, and we will do everything we can to make that happen.

Yet I know that, even with privilege, there is pain. Families fall apart. Friendships founder, relationships break-up. Old hurts resurface. Worries overwhelm us at every turn. We get ill, loved ones die, we struggle with issues of mental health and addictions — our own or those of our loved ones. Jobs are lost, promises broken. Disappointments can come all too easily.

Moi, j’ai vécu mes moments de joie, mais j’ai vécu aussi mes moments de peine et de perte. Quand on vive des déceptions, il n’importe pas ce que soit notre position dans le monde. On souffre et on a besoin des soulagements, on a besoin de se reculer. Pour aider les autres on doit respirer comme il faut. Comme  s’est dit en avion, d’abord il faut mettre votre propre masque d’oxygène. 

No matter who we are, we still need our moments of rest and renewal. Sometimes we are lucky to have long stretches of hours, days, weeks, even months of peace and quiet. Maybe we’re able to step back and reflect on our place in the order of things, to contemplate our purpose or our mission in life. Maybe we give ourselves a break and just stop worrying about the future. Maybe we only take a deep breath, or hear a bird’s song in the midst of city traffic, or let ourselves drift into beautiful memory that gives us a brief moment of freedom from all our concerns.

This summer, upon my son’s recommendation, I started using this app on my phone called Headspace. It’s a beginner’s meditation program that invites you to take ten minutes for ten days to sit through a guided meditation series. Yes, it took me much longer than ten days to get through the first level, but now I’ve finally moved on to the second set of ten days. For ten minutes each morning, before I do anything else, I sit and listen to the calming voice of Andy, who guides me through a short meditation. These days he’s talking about intention. Why is it that I’ve chosen to meditate today? Wouldn’t it make a difference not only in my life but in the life of everyone around me if I meditated, if I took these brief ten minutes each day to get centred, to calm myself before I face the day? It seems so cliché to say that the world would be such a better place if we began by finding peace within ourselves.

We need to name our place and privilege in this world. We need to name and work against injustice. But we also need rest, renewal and peace in our hearts. In the words of Lao-Tse:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours.
If there is to be peace between neighbours,
There must be peace in the home
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

Si vous avez vécu un moment pacifique cet été, un moment de repos ou un moment de regain, je vous invite à verser l’eau que vous avez portée avec vous dans un ces bols-ci, ou d’utiliser l’eau dans les pichets.

If you felt peace in your heart this summer, if you have brought water that represents rest and renewal, I invite you to come forward to pour your water into the bowls that we have placed here. At the end of our service we’ll reserve a small amount of water to use for any child dedications this year. The rest of the water we’ll carry to the front garden where we have hopes of doing some major work this fall in anticipation of our 175th anniversary. 

Download Reflections from Our Water Ceremony