Winter Holidays

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Altared Perceptions: Solstice 2013

Published December 23, 2013 by Susan Woodward

church

Solstice 2013: Saturday, December 21.  What a gorgeous and uplifting experience!  In the past five years since I began attending First Unitarian Church of Rochester, I have felt that this has been a wonderful place to call my spiritual home; however, I have never felt more at home until our Solstice Celebration.  Stars

The lights draped along the main wall amid shining stars was complimented with the laser show of stars on the ceiling.

We entered the sanctuary in darkness except for these twinkling lights and the center brazier.  The chairs were placed in a circle, sectioned to represent the four directions.  As one with strong ties to earth-based spirituality, the calling of the quarters and casting of the circle brought me an incredible feeling of belonging and peace.

singing bowl1After calling the quarters, the musical director led the opening meditation with a singing bowl.  The tone rang out through the church and drummers beat a pulsating rhythm that mirrored our beating hearts.

When Rev. Kaaren began telling the tale of Jonah in the Belly of the Whale, we all contemplated on those times in our lives when we, too, feel like we have been in the dark.  She asked us to think of those things that hold us back and prevent us from moving forward to the light, and then write those things down on a piece of flash paper (the flash paper was a stroke of genius for this exercise!)

spiralKarren then called to the congregation to come, by quarters, forward to place those things we wished to move toward the light into a waiting urn.  As each quarter finished, she lit a match and dropped it into the urn, and in a flash of light, those things that had once been in darkness were transformed into light itself…and a bright light it was!

Kaaren  flash

The flash was brilliant, and made me feel as if something was rekindled inside me.  For the past couple of months, I have to admit that I have allowed the darkness of depression to creep back into my heart.  Going thorough “the change” into my Crone years has wreaked havoc with my hormones and emotions.  The Solstice Service did much for re-igniting my heart in time for truly enjoying the blessings of the Holiday Season.

Three more times this was repeated until all members from the four sections of the church had an opportunity to let go of something that has been holding them in the dark.  The beating of the drums was accompanied by clapping and snapping from the congregation and built to a frenzy each time just before Kaaren dropped the flame into the urn.  Four brilliant flashes really energized the whole place.

candles

We all also had candles, which were lit from the central fire.  The flame was passed from person to person until the whole church was lit.

lightsEveryone, young and old, held a lit candle…

lights 2The overall effect was not only gorgeous, but it left me with this strong feeling of energy within.

In the five years since I began attending First UU, I have not experienced anything quite like it.  This Solstice Service was the culmination of a tranformative year in my life.    I have loved this church ever since I started coming here, but for the first time, I truly feel at home.   I love the fact that UU’s welcome those from all spiritual paths, including those whose heart follows the Pagan path.  I began coming to First UU because I was seeking a community where I would feel accepted, and with this celebration, I not only felt accepted, but included.

What a blessing!

 

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