I'm so very glad she understood the importance of the first keynote--on third wave feminism. She got it that we need to connect the present with the past and see ourselves as part of a developing lineage of women (and men) who understand that women are key to the future of this planet. But she didn't get the opening ceremony. Neither did some others.
The Right Relationship facilitator even included in her report that some women had commented that the opening was "too pagan" and that it wasn't their spiritual tradition. I wondered at the time if she would have made that report if women had complained it was "too Christian" or "too Buddhist." My defensive self wanted to shout out: "Hey women, didn't you come to an international conference knowing you might experience some religious practice that was different from yours? Where's the love and respect you pledged to this community at the end of that opening ceremony?"
I realize, though, that maybe what we were trying to do simply didn't come across as well as we might have hoped. As the coordinator of the opening ceremony I'd like to tell you about our intentions and see if you can maybe help me figure out how we might have communicated the spirit of the opening better. I know part of the problem was that we had no time for rehearsal--and I now have new respect for those who orchestrate opening ceremonies at other conferences, like the UUA General Assembly.
I will be posting on another blog--"Rainbow Ceremonies"--
The hippie pagan label stung precisely because one of our stated goals was to not be too pagan. The worship theme for the whole conovcation was the elements--earth, air, fire, and water. We sang that chant from the UU hymnbook, as was suggested by others planning worship. Was it the drums that made it too hippie pagan? Or was it the chant?
We started with a procession, four lines of women of different ages and cultures--youth and young adults, adult women (35-50, queens (50-65), crones (65 and older). These are approximate ages, of course. We were lining up in the dark and guessing at ages. I was frantically trying to get the lights turned on, so the augdience would see the diversity as we danced in from four different directions up onto the stage.
Once on the stage, we wove the four ages of women together and danced as the chant continued to build. It was a joyous moment for those of us on stage, as we passed by each other and smiled across generations and cultures. I have no idea what it looked like to the audience. Hippie pagan, I guess.
Then one of the youngest women lit the chalice and said the words of the chalice lighting in her language. Women from 5 or 6 other countries then said the words in their languages. Each time the audience applauded. I wasn't sure if they were welcoming the women or rewarding them for speaking their languages. Ironically, I got no applause when I said the words in English. Too hippie pagan, I suppose.
The emcee then dedicated the ceremony to the women from Africa who were unable to attend due to US goverment refusal to grant visas. She read words from the UU hymnbook that included the line: "Gaia, mother of everything." We chose these words because our assigned elemental theme was earth. Clearly hippie pagan.
One of our most beloved songwriters then led a song from the UU hymnbook that she had written. As we sang a group of women did a lovely liturical dance. The women on stage were a mother and daughter. The song has "a rose" in it and mentions one of the seasons. More hippie pagan elements.
We asked the administrator/coordinator of the Convocation to welcome women to Houston, to name the unique location of our gathering and invite us to be open to the energeis of the place. Then we "called the directions," a traditional practice of earth-based religions. Many years ago, at a Women & Religion workshop at GA, four women invoked the directions by naming women who came from those direction. That seemed like a universal way to bring us all togehter, so that what we did. The words acknowleged the indigenous people of the land on which we met and named the different countries women came from. What part of this was hippie pagan?
Probably the most specifically pagan thing came next. The emcee said these words: "We are between the worlds. What we do between the worlds affects all worlds." I think I'll explain what those words mean in my next blog. This is long enough for now. Besides, it's time for "Ugly Betty," one of my favorite hippie pagan shows.