Monday, January 30, 2012

White Stone, Burning Bowl

Unity is a bit unconventional and not especially ritualistic. We don't do communion and rarely conduct baptisms. And while the rest of Christendom prepares the Eucharist, we can be found meditating amid our Sunday services.

But there are two rituals we do each year that I eagerly anticipate: The Burning Bowl and White Stone Ceremonies. 

Burning Bowl

Burning Bowl is the first Sunday after New Year's Day. During a guided meditation we write on flash paper things from the previous year that we'd like to release. It could be anything from old hurts and regrets to finished relationships or job transitions. Letting go creates a vacuum that is filled with whatever we  invoke for the New Year during White Stone.   

I'm told the first year our church had this burning garbage can that got so out of control it had to be hosed down out back. These days we just incinerate our sorrows in a single, flickering flame. Poof! Gone. Just like that.

My son also seared away the hardships of 2011. Our minister, who could seriously do stand up in her spare time, wondered what in the world these little ones could possibly be letting go? Then she told us a priest once said listening to children confess is like being stoned to death with popcorn.

White Stone

Within a few weeks of Burning Bowl is The White Stone Ceremony. That morning we are each given a white stone quarried from Israel.

This ritual is inspired by Revelations 2:17, "To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."

When prisoners back in the day were released they were issued a white stone with a new name on it, symbolizing a fresh start. Our White Stone Ceremony reaches across time, anchoring this ancient metaphor in modern hearts when our new names, so to speak, are revealed in meditation. It could be a quality one wants to cultivate in the new year such as compassion, Christ-like, focus, forgiving. Or, maybe it reflects a dream held dear - motherhood, author, graduate. It could even be the same word from last year, no one would know anyhow since it is between ourselves and The Source. This rectangular white rock quarried from The Holy Land, then, becomes  a talisman, a physical reminder of what matters most to us.

This year I wrote five, count em', FIVE words on my white stone, because I could, but I'm not going to say what they are, because I'm just superstitious enough to think that I shouldn't.

Further Information:

White Stone and Burning Bowl by Rev. Carla Golden


Unity on Wikipedia

Tags: White Stone and Burning Bowl


  1. Very interesting. I did not know about these two ceremonies. Thank you for sharing (and for linking up through NOBH.) Smiles -

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  3. Hi Amy. Thanks for coming by. I find a lot of people have never heard of my denomination, even though we've been around since the 1890's. I'm not sure why. Maybe because we are mostly in cities. I look forward to these two ceremonies every year. A lot of people unaffiliated with any church attend these to mark the new year as well - kind of reminds me of Rosh Hashanah in that way.

  4. The ceremonies sound amazing! I am shocked, really, how akin they seem to 'spells,' especially the Burning Bowl. Although I have always thought of spells as "prayers with attitude" (and usually props) anyway, this sounds so similar! And you meditate in Church! I am so intrigued, thanks for sharing!

  5. Years ago I met some people that were Pagan who weren't at all the bad people some would have us believe. The were so gentle and loved the earth. That dissonance made me want to research the topic on my own, so I read Drawing Down the Moon. My impression was similiar to what you said - that spells seemed like prayer set to ritual. The intention is the same.

    Unity is a mystical wing of Christianity, though many literalists would exclude us from the Christian fellowship.

    I think the mystical wings of various traditions (Sufi, Kabbalah, Shamanism, New Thought, Earth-Based, etc) often have more in common with each other than they do with fundamentalists within their own broader faith traditions. That's how we recognize one another - even when we walk different paths the metaphysical, mystical heart is one.

    I do love the meditation portion of the service. I'm not very ritual oriented (an attention span thing). It's silence that does it for me.


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