February 2017 WATERritual

Feminist Faith for Forty Days

By Diann L. Neu, Mallory Naake, and Hannah Dorfman

Brigit's Well

(St. Brigit’s Well, Dundalk, Ireland, photo by Diann L. Neu)

Listen to the audio of our February 2017 WATERritual here.

Preparation: Set your ritual space with lit candles, a bowl filled with drinking water, a cup, and important symbols of your faith.

Call to Gather
Welcome to this WATERritual Feminist Faith for Forty Days. We have committed to begin each of our programs with the following statement:

“We at WATER are deeply concerned by the direction the current U.S. administration is moving. We are especially chilled by the unjust treatment of immigrants and refugees, among many other egregious policies. We affirm that all of WATER’s efforts are focused on changing the cultural and intellectual assumptions that ground discrimination, exclusion, and destruction. We gather in service of a very different vision—inclusion, equality, and justice. All are welcome.”

We notice that there is a deep coincidence between the coming 40 days of the Christian Lenten period which starts with Ash Wednesday and the last 40 days of this unbelievable and unbearable political agenda, and probably the 40 toughest days in the recent history of our country.

The new Administration has caused outrage upon outrage with compromises on national security, a ban on refugees from majority-Muslim countries, threats of building a U.S.-Mexico wall, the installment of unqualified cabinet members, reversal of the Affordable Care Act with no suitable replacement, go ahead with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, squelching government experts who work on climate change, signing executive order after executive order — and he is just getting started.

What does it mean to be a feminist of faith in such unbearable times. We come together with such unsettled senses of our own Christian tradition, imbued as it is with patriarchal symbols and imagery. What resources do we need in the days ahead to motivate us and keep us working for change.

Today we dig deep and center our faith for the 40 days ahead. May this time be a resource for the work we must continue in these difficult times. We gather at Wisdom’s Well to focus on Feminist Faith for Forty Days. We invite you to draw from the well and be strengthened for the days ahead.

Name the Circle
Let us introduce ourselves. Speak your name and share a thought or feeling you have as Lent nears.  (Naming)

Song: “Living Water/Agua Viva” Colleen Fulmer and Rufino Zaragoza from Her Wings Unfurled © 1984

Music and lyrics to Living Water/Agua Viva

Gathering Prayer by Diann L. Neu © 2017
O Holy Wisdom, we gather with your people around the world in search of spiritual integrity that does justice.  Keep our spirits alive.

        Even though social programs are being eroded,
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even though backlash threatens our work,
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even in the midst of fear,
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even as violence replaces community,
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even as we are confused,
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even when our days are crowded and our nights are cold,
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even when our children’s future is uncertain,
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even when we lose hope.
                    Response: Keep our spirits alive.

        Even when we resist, rally, and create,
                   Response: Keep our spirits alive.

O Holy Wisdom, we gather with your people around the world in search of spiritual integrity that does justice. Keep our spirits alive that we may rise together.

Reading: “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou © 1978, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_muacudzsI
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt,
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
Just ’cause I walk as if I have oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like suns and like moons,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my sassiness upset you?
Don’t take it so hard just ‘cause I laugh,
As if I have gold mines
Digging in my own backyard.

You can shoot me with your words,
You can cut me with your lies,
You can kill me with your hatefulness,
But just like life, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness offend you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance as if I have diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past rooted in pain
I rise
A black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak miraculously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the hope and the dream of the slave.
And so, naturally
There I go rising.

Chant: “A River of Birds” Source Unknown from A Circle Is Cast by Libana © 1986

        There’s a river of birds in migration,
        a nation of women with wings.

Questions for Reflection
Many religious traditions set aside time for focusing on spirituality.  We who know the integration between spirituality and justice have a fairly clear sense of what we need to do for justice, but the real difficulty seems to be finding the spiritual resources to motivate us and keep us alive while we work.

What is the source of your faith? How can you nurture your faith in the 40 days to come? How can you give it more space, more attention, more expression? What spiritual practices will help you?

Let’s take some quiet time to reflect and then I will invite us to share our thoughts. (Sharing)

        Chant: “A River of Birds”

Blessing from Wisdom’s Well
Let us stand around Wisdom’s Well together. She holds the wealth of faith from all of us and from feminists around the world.

Look at the symbols of your faith that you have placed around the well, or think of ones that are important to you. Name the feminist faith practice that you want to focus on for the 40 days ahead, take a cup, dip it into the well, drink the water, and invite us to affirm your commitment and sip water with you.

        Response: We bless you and affirm your commitment.

Sending Forth by Diann L. Neu © 2009
Take the holy water from our feminist wells into the city streets and country roads of every neighborhood!

Let us go forth in all directions of the universe to bless and to embrace,
To forgive and to heal,
To welcome and to sanctify.

Let us go forth to the homeless and to the hospitable,
To the hungry and to the full,
To the thirsty and to the justice-seekers.

Let us go forth to the elderly and to those who seek wisdom,
To the exiled and to those who understand freedom,
To the hopeless and to those who have visions.

Let us go forth to church leaders who are unable to perceive the needs of their people,
To government officials who ignore the cries of the poor,
To world leaders who reject the movements for peace.     

Let us go forth to the women and to the men of every race and place,
To the young and to the old of every neighborhood,
To the next generation and to their children of every nation.

These 40 days, let us go forth in love.
These 40 days, let us go forth in mercy.
These 40 days, let us go forth in justice.

Song: “Living Water/Agua Viva”

Greeting of Solidarity

Take Action

  • Focus on 1-2 spiritual self-care practices.
  • Fill Lent with prayerful actions that reflect your feminist faith.
  • Plan or participate in a Glitter+Ash Wednesday. Read more at Religion News Service.
  • Volunteer with or donate to social justice organizations that reflect feminist spiritual practices.
  • Pray for local, regional, national, and international leaders.
  • Follow the Sisters of St. Orange daily prayer calendar for the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

© 2017 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). Planned by Diann L. Neu dneu@hers.com, Mallory Naake mallory@waterwomensalliance.org, and Hannah Dorfman hannah@waterwomensalliance.org.