I read somewhere that traditionally the five year anniversary gift is wood…and I think back to our installation ceremony four years ago…and the drums made of wood, that were such an important cultural element. I can hear the drums as the Aztec dancers blessed me with sacred copal incense. I asked Xiomara, who is an Aztec danzante, if her calpulli would offer the blessing and she immediately said yes! She understood that Drumming and dancing are not for entertainment purposes, but at the heart of indigenous ceremonies marking important rites of passages. She understood that drumming and dancing are sacred prayers: the invocation of the ancestors, the gratitude to the indigenous people of this sacred land, the call to gather together: to bless, to honor, to celebrate!
I can hear the heartbeat of the giant drum that my friends Phil and Ron built especially for that occasion…calling me, welcoming me, blessing me, guiding me to you…I can remember the frame of this sanctuary reverberating and soaking up those prayers that emerged from the wooden frame of the drums…For me, having the voice of the drum and the Aztec dancers leading us in ceremony, was such a blessing, such a gift, an outward expression of this congregation’s commitment to diversity, multiculturalism, and the spiritual practice of radical welcoming. It was a hot day and many were probably wishing for air conditioning or a shorter service…but we stayed together, in this sanctuary, even as this new experience took some of you out of your comfort zone… And for that act of Grace, I will be forever grateful…
Today, as I look back on our five years together on this shared journey, I remember so many occasions when we have gathered to bless each other, to heal, and to celebrate. I arrived in August of 2016 and less than three months later, on Election night in November, we were already gathering in this sanctuary to try to make sense of this new reality, to support each other, to pray together, and to offer refuge to neighbors and families who found out about our gathering, people who had never been here before, and needed a safe and brave space…We opened our doors and we opened our hearts, to friends and to anyone who might walk through the sanctuary doors. That was a long night which lasted four long years and then the pandemic hit. And this time, even though our doors needed to remain closed to keep us all safe, our hearts once again, remained open as we created a virtual brave space where we have continued to gather to bless, to heal, to celebrate. To say that the past five years have been challenging would be an understatement. When it mattered, we showed up, stepped up, rose up, together. And we have not let go of each other. This is commitment, this is mutual covenant, this is shared ministry at its best.
Today and every day, I give thanks for our shared journey, for all the joys and sorrows: The weddings, the child dedications, the memorial services, and all the gatherings where we share our love for each other and for this our Starr King community. May we continue to learn and grow together. May we continue to face challenges together: with grace, compassion, creativity, courage, and joy. And may we remember that on this journey, we continue to be blessed by the Divine, present in the beat of the drum, in the dance, in this sanctuary, and in the spirit of this community. Happy Anniversary Beloveds!
– Rev. Dr. Maria Cristina Vlassidis Burgoa