As I said in part one, if I learned liturgical ritual, feast days, and smells-and-bells from the Catholic Church, it was at Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary that I began to make those things my own. To feel them in my bones. To know that ritual was worth my blood, sweat, and tears.
While I had been to Four Quarters (we mostly called it “the Farm”) since Beltaine/May Day 1996, it wasn’t until fall of 1997 that I helped with a ritual. And even then, I just read something off a piece of paper when someone told me to. I remember so clearly, Marcia T. and Judy teasing me, and Judy saying, “It’s about time you did something useful around here.”
Useful. Ritual was useful. Helping make ritual was useful.
Eventually, I didn’t just read what others wrote. I wrote ceremony and was on teams that made it happen. Rites of passage. Celebrations of holidays. Services to honor the turning of the moon, the turning of Earth.
Eventually, I helped make lunch in the rain for hundreds of exhausted people.
Eventually, I served breakfast too perkily for those who had yet to have coffee.
Eventually, I offered pastoral care and mentorship.
Eventually, I became welcome into the tribe of Radical Faeries, the ones with a disco ball in the woods, the ones with a full length mirror for checking out what we looked like emerging from tents or getting ready for ritual. As they sometimes say, “Witches, and Faeries, and Bears, oh my!”
Eventually, I became a leader. I was an advocate to the Board for members’ concerns. I helped found what became Stone Circle Wicca, and I taught, mentored, and made ceremony over and over in that tradition.
Over and over, I saw the overlap between my EarthReligious identity and my Roman Catholic past. I felt the necessity of ritual structure and liturgy, shaped by the turning of the year and the needs of community. I experienced the power of ceremonies that engage the whole body, many senses, that bring together community history and community vision.
And, too, I learned the pains of community. I learned about disappointment, disillusionment, and commitment. I chose again and again to stay, even when it was hard. And eventually I chose to leave, to go with love, to lick some wounds, and yet still to speak and write of the blessedness of the place.
The holiness of the Stones that are raised each year, building, Stone by Stone, a great Circle for ceremony and community.
The places on the Four Quarters Land made sacred by people gathering again and again.
The sound of drums, dancing, and singing late into the night.
Art, music, altars…so much beauty.
And still, there were other places to explore, other ways to learn leadership, other places to investigate.
What tradition can hold me?
The next bend in the River took me to Unitarian Universalism, back to a tradition I had explored earlier in my travels (along with Reform Judaism, Quakerism, and Episcopalianism). That bend in the River led me straight into the doors of All Souls Church Unitarian, a Washington DC church unlike any other I had ever experienced before…