Reflections from Water Communion 2013

Rev. Megan Foley
Sermon Date: 
Sun, 09/08/2013

Who here has heard the Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum before?

Is there anyone who can tell me what it means?

Is there anyone who knows where to see this phrase written down, right now?

On our money! E Pluribus Unum means “out of many, one.” My internet sources tell me it was first suggested as our national motto in the year 1782, to be part of the Great Seal of the United States. The Continental Congress chose it because they had elected to make one country out of what had been thirteen separate colonies, thirteen separate little countries, really. So there had once been many, but now there was going to be just one. The United States of America.
Even though the motto was originally chosen because of the way our country was going to be organized, it has become important in the US for other reasons as well.

One of the important things that we believe in the US is that Americans are made up of all sorts of different people with different backgrounds and different ways of living and definitely different opinions, but we each get a vote, a voice, in saying how the country should run, because each of us is important and we are all needed to make up the whole. E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One, that means that there’s a lot of us, but no matter how many different ones of us we have, we are still just one country.

That’s an important thing to say about the United States, that we are one country even though we have so many different sorts of citizens here. It’s even more important, I think, than saying that we formed one country out of thirteen colonies a long time ago.
And if this sounds familiar….if it sounds a little bit like our country might be put together a little like a Unitarian Universalist congregation….that makes sense because Unitarians like John Adams and Unitarian-type thinkers like Thomas Jefferson were right there at the founding of our country, and had some of the same ideas about governing that we do in our churches today.
E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One, is a great description of the Unitarian Universalist religion, and a great description of Sugarloaf as well, and that’s what we come together today especially to celebrate with our annual Water Communion.

There are so many of us here at this church from so many different backgrounds, who live in so many different places, who have so many different opinions. We might be tempted to think that that means that we don’t have much in common. But, in reality, Unitarian Universalists join together in congregations as a way of telling ourselves and each other and the world that our differences don’t matter as much as we might think they do. We come together because we have decided that what is more important than our individual differences is to become one loving, caring group. Out of many, we have chosen to become one.

We do that every day, at Sugarloaf, all through the year, but it’s especially noticeable at Water Communion time. That’s because for Water Communion we all bring our water from wherever we were this summer, near or far, exciting or everyday – or both – and we join the waters together to create one pool. This ritual helps us to see that even though we’re from so many different places, we are coming together and choosing to be one here. And this water already in the bowl, that’s water that comes from all the Water Communion Sundays that this church has ever had. So all the people who ever came here, ever brought water here, are still represented here, just like their ideas and their hard work are still with us today.

E Pluribus Unum. Water Communion Sunday. Welcome back, everyone.
Has anyone ever been to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington DC? Can you tell me something about the water there, if you remember?

Part of the way the memorial remembers President Roosevelt is by using water to represent all the different phases of his very long presidency, 16 years long! The memorial has a crashing waterfall to symbolize the Great Depression that happened in the 1930s, where so many people lost their jobs and didn’t have enough food to eat or clothes to wear or places to live.

The memorial has a different section with water coming over different levels and terraces as a way to talk about one of the ideas President Roosevelt had to help with that tough time, giving people jobs to build dams and other public works projects.
The memorial has a section with all sorts of spurting water coming from all different directions, to represent the chaos of World War Two, and how worried the country was, and how much they sacrificed, and how busy they were while they were fighting that war.

And there’s a part with perfectly still water, like a little swimming pool with no-one inside it, to help us understand how people were feeling when President Roosevelt died, how sad they were and how empty they felt.

Can you think of different events in your own life that might have different sorts of water to describe it?
Like what kind of water would be like the first day of school?
And what kind of water would be like the night after the first day of school, when you’re back home, after you’ve had dinner?
And what kind of water would be like a Saturday when you’re free to do whatever you want?
And what kind of water would be like coming to church?

This past summer, we all did different things with our time. Some of us stayed at home and came to church every Sunday, just like usual. Some of us went to camp. Some of us traveled. Lots of us got to swim, which is a nice treat in the summer. And a lot of us remembered to bring some of the water from those summery events here to church to add to our bowl, and some of us forgot our water but still want to tell everyone something about themselves this summer, which is why we have this little bowl of water so you can use it if you want.
Some of our experiences were like rushing water, and some of our experiences were like falling water, and some of our experiences were like calm and smooth water. What matters is that we’re putting all those waters, all these bits of ourselves, into one bowl, to make one experience, one thing called the Sugarloaf Congregation of Unitarian Universalists.

What our water will be like this year still remains to be seen, but it will definitely include all the bits of water, all the bits of experience and background and opinion that each of us have. Out of the many of us, we’re making One Thing. E Pluribus Unum. Church.