My wife and I recently participated in a service of about 50 persons at the Interfaith Chapel of the Presidio in SF. ICP is connected to the United Religions Initiative that seems to be growing around the world–a kind of “spiritual united nations.” Representatives from Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Baptist, Sufi, Atheist, Hindu, Muslim and Pagan traditions participated as well as Youth, each simply offering a story or a blessing, then lighting a candle and getting “anointed” with water composed of drops from over 100 sacred sites around the world (I appreciate the symbolism, though I think the water from the Bay, or a stream, or the tap, is as “sacred” as anyplace).
This old military chapel is set in the incredible beauty of the National Park. It has the old pews and hanging chandeliers, candle holders and plaques on the walls honoring war-dead. Stainglass windows don’t seem to focus on any particular faith. The location is next to the national military cemetery (actually a wonderful place to walk through, for the quiet, the view, the beauty of Nature–though unfortunately covered by tombstones. . .but that’s another conversation).
The experience caused me to reflect on an “Earth Sanctuary” where an “Earth Congregation” could meet in the “Temple of Nature.” At the reception afterward I was speaking with a Pagan leader about some of the following ideas/concepts. As this is ever-evolving, input, suggestions, comments, questions, critiques are always welcome and necessary.
1. Identify natural environments to gather (groves, meadows, hillsides, courtyards or buildings integrated with the land). How many “dead” places of worship sit virtually empty that could be transformed into Chapels of Nature?
2. Form a “leadership team” to create a gathering plan and set place, date and time
3. Put the word out (website, local media, fliers, etc)
4. Gathering Circle
Meet at appointed time
Form a circle
Silence and Joyful/Meditative Music
Stories from the Sanctuary (Tales from the Temple)
—-Lessons drawn from Nature
Story One (woman)
Story Two (child)
Story Three (man)
Reflection (by one or several of the leadership team)
Small Circles (10 minutes, discuss stories, reflections, add personal stories, get to know each other)
Closing Words (suggest next gathering place, date and time)
Hikes, walks, other ways of streaming into the sanctuary
(post-gathering: leadership team reflects on the experience; invites comments and suggestions; decide next steps and who does what. . .)
*The Chapel of Nature will grow with the participants organically nurtured with a shared, non-hierarchical, diverse, balanced and open leadership style