Monday, July 01, 2013

Creating Sacred Spaces

A couple of weeks ago I attended a service at Garneau United Church, which is part of the United Church of Canada. I have been impressed with the United Church for a while because of its commitment to social justice from a spiritual perspective.

Jim Graves and his drum.

The reason why I attended this particular service was because a friend was leading the service as a layperson that Sunday. According to the United Church's calendar, it was Aboriginal Sunday and I have a feeling this was why my friend took this particular service.

Patti Goodstriker calling the Four Directions.

For a while, Jim has been involved with reconciliation between First Nations and the United Church, particularly as it pertains to the return of the Manitou Stone. As a result, much of the service incorporated aspects of Aboriginal culture, including smudging, calling the Four Directions, reading a poem about reconciliation, and (my personal favourite part) sharing bannock at the end.

Jim holding up the Unity Candle, an important symbol in the United Church.

There were also other spiritual aspects that came into play here. A cleansing and purification ceremony with salt and water, to wash away concerns. A "grounding" which fostered a connectedness to our bodies and the earth. Examining crystals and rocks and other elements of the earth with the children in the congregation. A Unity Candle which was lit, each level of colour being attributed a musical tone (and which was lit upside down from its usual position).
Jim wielding a large cross.

Of course, there were a lot of Christian elements to the service, particularly in the form of hymns and Scripture readings. The short sermon tied everything together, talking about creating sacred spaces and then handing the pulpit over to someone actively involved in the Manitou Stone repatriation process.

Anna Faulds talking about the Manitou Stone and a cycle of ceremonies.

What I took away from the service is how we can make sacred spaces in our lives, whether they are physical places, our minds, our bodies, or a connectedness between ourselves and the world around us. The elements of different traditions and cultures helped create bridges between that understanding and the diverse array of people who attended the service - including me, who got a really warm reception after introducing myself as a Jewish person.

The sacred surrounds us. It is just a matter of us realizing it and then calling upon it. And when we realize that much of who we are what what surrounds us is sacred, the importance of social justice, reconciliation between cultures, and other issues can be more effectively dealt with.

Jim and the children.

Here is a video of the service, which has been condensed into approximately a half hour: