In July 2018, at the very start of my sabbatical, I had the honor of participating in several temezcales (meso-american sweat lodges), at the invitation of my friend the Rev. Virginia Marie Rincon, as part of an annual summer "curanderismo" course offered by the University of New Mexico which offers students an opportunity to explore traditional healing of Mexico and the Southwest.
In the temezcal we sang this song:
Agua vital, purificame
Fuego de amor, quema mi temor
Viento del alma, llevame al altar
Madre Tierra, vuelvo a mi hogar
en el temezcal
[Living water, purify me
fire of love, consume my fear
wind of the spirit, carry me to the altar
mother earth, I return to my home
in the temezcal]
As a priest in the "Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement", I find an easy resonance with this song. I believe that not only all humankind, but all of creation is created and called to share in God's work of healing, God's work of creation and re-creation.
Scripture and liturgy alike abound with references to the elements of water, fire, wind, and earth.
I can't help but think of the waters of baptism, the purifying fire and rushing wind of the Holy Spirit, the earth from which we are formed and to which we return, remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.
As I continued to pray this song in the days following the temezcal, a 3 part series of movements and images came to mind.
With the first repetition of the song, I imagine myself as a seed, buried deep in the earth. I imagine rainwater drenching the earth, fire sweeping across the ground above me, consuming dry grasses and trees, wind rushing over the landscape, sweeping it clean. All the while, I remain buried: waiting, gestating, in the dark depths of Mother Earth, God's Womb or God's Heart.
With the second repetition of the song, I rise up to my knees, imagining that I am the seed sprouting up from the earth. A seedling, a "green blade rising", a tender shoot I remain rooted in the earth, but begin to stretch up towards the sky. I feel myself bathed in gentle raindrops and fiery sunbeams. I bloom and flower, and release seeds which are carried on the wind up into the sky, then back down into the earth.
With the third repetition of the song, I rise to standing. I imagine that I am standing in a pool under a waterfall. The cleansing waters of baptism wash over me. A fire rises from the earth, consuming and transforming fear (and all that is not of God) from within my body, belly, heart, mind. The rushing wind of the Spirit blows the ash of the fear and falsehood (aka Ego) that has been consumed to the four corners, and carries the golden seed of my True Self--the tiny, beloved Child of God, created in the image and likeness of God--up to the heavens, to the Altar of God, then back down to be planted in the earth, the Womb of God where I receive nourishment for growth once more.
In the videos below (recorded amidst the monastery ruins at Holy Island/Lindisfarne during my recent preaching group retreat) I demonstrate this movement meditation.
I invite you to explore praying with this song, these images, these movements, these elements in the days to come. Through them, may you come to know more deeply God's healing, creating, and re-creating work in your own body, mind, spirit, life, and community.
And I invite you to share what you discover in the comments, below.
I spent August 20-22 in the San Francisco Bay Area with 20 Episcopal clergy people who are doing ministry in a variety of West/West Coast contexts, including California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and New Mexico.
This so called "West Coast Clergy Convivium" was convened by three Episcopal priests, (Paul Fromberg & Phil Brochard, Diocese of California; and Alissa Newton, Diocese of Olympia) who have been noticing that Episcopal Church conversations often feel very "East-Coast-centric", leaving the false impression that Episcopal identity is centered in places like New York and Virginia. Our conveners called us together in the hopes of discovering more about what the Holy Spirit is up to in the Episcopal Church west of the Mississippi and, in particular, what wisdom might arise from reflecting together on the cultural particularities of the Western US and ministry in our particular church contexts that could be of value to the wider Episcopal Church.
We emerged from our three days together with a set of questions and commitment to continued conversations with one another and with clergy and lay people in our local ministry contexts in the months ahead.
The questions that we will be exploring in one on one conversations in the coming months include:
So here's your big chance--if you'd like to set aside an hour to meet with me sometime in the next few months (coffee shop? bar? my backyard? zoom?) for a conversation about any of the above questions--or West Coast/Western US culture in general and its implications for ministry in the Episcopal Church--just let me know! You can FB message me, or email me.
At the close of our gathering, we were each invited to share a single word to sum up our time together. "Energized", "Curious", "Hopeful" were some of the words offered. The word I offered was "Sad". I am curious to continue to interrogate and unpack that word, and the accompanying image I created to express it (above).
Is there something particularly "Western" about the geography of the image itself? Are we, as Episcopal church leaders, like pioneers struggling to cross the rugged Continental Divide of Grief that separates the present Whirlpool of Fear that threatens to pull us under from the Radiant Yet Unknown Future to which God is calling us? The glare of the sun in our eyes prevents us from seeing that future clearly. And yet we feel compelled to press ahead...to find passage beyond fear through the sometimes treacherous Mountains of Grief into the great and terrifying unknown where God has promised to go ahead of us.
The Western Spirit of adventure and independence spurs us on, increasing the odds that we might discover some narrow, ancient path that leads us to stunning and spacious vistas we could never have dreamed of. But, left unchecked, that same Western Spirit of rugged individualism also increases the odds that we'll get stranded alone in those mountains by an unexpected blizzard or rockslide and be forced to saw off our own leg or eat our only remaining horse to survive. Or maybe worse, we'll make it through alive only to claim as our own those resources and riches that could never belong to us.
Before this half-baked metaphor runs away from me completely, I'll stop and leave you to ponder the Church, the West, and the Mountain of Sad that separates--and connects--"what's now" from "what's next" in the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.
Feel free to share your own thoughts & experiences in the comments, below. [Please don't bother sharing your opinions about my generous and unconventional use of upper case letters.]
In August (2018) I was invited to be part of a retreat with the Women of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. At the Boldly Forward weekend, over 2 dozen attendees explored how the lives of Mary (Mother of Jesus), Mary Magdalene, Judith, Ruth, and Esther inspire our ministries in the 21st Century.
In working with retreat organizers Cindy Davis and the Rev. Pat Green, I was inspired to create a short sung response (with accompanying movements) for use in worship.
The text is an adaptation of Proverbs 8: 1-4.
Does not Wisdom call
from the heights, on the way?
At each crossroads Wisdom is taking her stand.
To you, O people, Wisdom calls
and her cry is to all that live.
In the video below I teach the song and explain the movements.
And in this video, I sing the song, with movements, standing on the wall of monastery ruins at Holy Island, Lindisfarne.
You are more than welcome to use this song in the worship life of your own community--it might work well to welcome the Gospel (what we Episcopalians call the "sequence hymn"), or to precede the reading of any Scripture.
At what crossroads do you find yourself today?
Can you imagine the Wisdom of God standing at that crossroads, with you?
Can you hear Her call to you?
The statue (pictured above, left) is a depiction of St. Cuthbert erected amidst the monastery ruins on Holy Island/Lindisfarne. Cuthbert looks remarkably like the image I had in my mind of Holy Wisdom (pictured above, right) when I created this song and movement meditation.
My name is Sylvia Miller-Mutia, and I am a priest in the Episcopal Church. I have recently accepted an exciting call to serve as assisting clergy at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Albuquerque, NM with a focus on outreach, evangelism, and family ministry. I continue serving as "priest at large" for the larger church and wider world, assisting the people of God in whatever ways I can, and developing new resources for spiritual formation to share. Prior to my current call, I served as Rector (aka Pastor) of St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Albuquerque, NM (2015-2018), Assistant Rector at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, CA (2010-2015) and Pastoral Associate for Youth & Families at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Belvedere, CA (2002-2009). I am married to Donnel (grief counselor, couples coach, artist, best dad ever), and we have three awesome kids, ranging in age from 8-14.