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 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.
Here is my son searing 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.
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.
White Stone and Burning Bowl by Rev. Carla Golden
Unity on Wikipedia
Tags: White Stone and Burning Bowl