We share seasons with one another, though the seasons we experience may be different. For those of you who are reading this blog in the southern hemisphere, winter is drawing in, while for those in the northern hemisphere it is soon to be Midsummer. Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community (ed Tirabassi and Eddy, The Pilgrim Press, 2011) celebrates seasons of nature and seasons of the heart.
Whatever the season is for you, look around and acknowledge your connection with al that grows and runs, swims and flies around you.
A Gathering Prayer On A First Summer Morning
Indeed your divine nature is revealed and evident to us on this, the longest day of the year. In the pre-dawn darkness we lit our sacred fire, and we were ready to welcome mooka’am (spirit of the sunrise) with prayers. Our waabini manidookewin (Sunrise ceremony) is meant for celebrating this special day with hearts full of thanks for all you give your people.
All around us Omizakamigokwe (Mother Earth) sings her summer song of activity. Our four-legged brothers and sisters are bring forth their oshki-ayaansag (literally “new ones”, figuratively “newly born”). They venture from their burrows and lairs under the watchful eyes of their parents, with so many teachings yet to learn, and yet so much playfulness in their learning. Even the way wabooz (rabbit) mirthfully hops through the tall grass reminds us that it is good to celebrate this day.
We look up, G’zhem-mnidoo (Creator God), and our winged sisters and brothers are soaring and swooping, their tiny hearts bursting with the song of freedom. In their nests mottle feathered little-ones stretch wide their beaks, endlessly seeking more nourishment to flourish and mature. Soon they too will dance in the skies, joining their parents in celebrating all you give to all living things – great and small.
The Zhaganaash call this day “Summer Solstice”, and celebrate it with thoughts of the warm days to come. Those who are growers look to be on the land, turning the rich dark soil, planting seeds redolent with promise, and tending the delicate shoots that are even now burgeoning forth from Omizakamigokwe’s (Mother Earth’s) breast. Already we can recognize the first mandaamin (corn plants) embarking upon their journey toward the sun, and our mouths water at the remembrance of how sweet those kernels will taste. Oh yes, it is a good day to celebrate.
Do you ever wonder, Creator of all things, with all this joyful activity prospering in nature, why your sentient creatures often seem so sluggish and listless in the summer warmth? How often you must ponder, that quick as we are to moan and complain when a few things don’t go as we suppose they should, we silently take all multitude of good things for granted as if they were somehow our due?
G’zhem-mnidoo, we come together this morning in the circle of our church, brimming-over with awe for all of your creation. Even though we can be such facile and fickle creatures, we also have more than sufficient capacity to be filled with amazement and appreciation for your wondrous gifts. In our worship this providential morning, hear our words and songs as celebration from hearts overflowing in thanks and praise, for all you give your people.
Chii-miigwech, (literally: “great/many thanks”, but also stands in place of “Amen”), G’zhem-mnidoo.
R. Matthew Stevens, Canada
Note from Matthew Stevens:
As a person of Aboriginal heritage I was privileged to serve for many years as a minister within First Nations communities. Being also regarded as an elder I was anxious to promote a blending of our traditional Native spiritual heritage, with the Christian practices the United Church of Canada follows amongst the dominant society. In this regard I find total harmony between the quintessential spirituality of both traditions, and re-introduced many of our symbols and approaches to the church service. As many within my congregations had suffered through Residential Schools, where missionary-types literally beat into them a residual fear of any Native ways , the re-introduction had to be done very gradually and carefully. At that time there were very little or no resources available that I could turn to, and so, although I am by no means a liturgist, I wrote some of my own.
This earlier welcome to summer came from the book Gifts in Open Hands. Here is a Call to Worship recently written by Matthew:
Gathering Ourselves for Worship (Responsive)
One: In the center stands a tree, encompassed by a hoop.
All: What is the significance of this symbol?
One: The tree stands for our spirituality, ever reaching upward.
All: What then of the hoop, what does it illustrate?
One: The hoop is our community of faith, ever stretching outward.
All: Are there more teachings contained in this symbol?
One: The tree can grow because it is rooted in the faith of our ancestors.
All: So what about the hoop, can it grow as well?
One: Indeed it will so long as we are open to renewal and inclusive of difference.
All: Let us celebrate the potential for growth in our spirituality and community of faith.
If you would like to purchase a copy of Gifts in Open Hands, please go here.