A Ritual for Ingathering/Water Communion (international focus)

Eric Cherry

Many Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations follow an annual Ingathering tradition on the first Sunday after Labor Day that includes a Water Communion/Ceremony ritual. Specific traditions vary widely, but often they include introductory remarks, a time for reflection, a sharing of water that people collected over the summer, and closing remarks. For those congregations which include an element of prayer or meditation, please consider the included “Ingathering Prayer.”

For some congregations, this tradition frames nearly the entirety of a worship service. In others, it is one element of a worship service inserted into the typical liturgy. The ritual elements described below can be adapted to either context.

For more information, go to the Faith Without Borders resource for Water Communion Services.

Ingathering Prayer

Guided by Love, secured by Hope, and made courageous by Faith,
We gather together at a moment of beginning:

Both Learning and Teaching,
Welcoming the Injured and the Healing,
Ever Justice-Seeking,
We bless this church with our Love.

With Pilgrims and Seekers,
Growing Children and Cherished Seniors,
Guided by Pillars and by Leaders,
We bless this church with our Hope.

Praying and Resolving,
Trusting and Involving,
Some Settled, some Evolving,We bless this church with our Faith.

Let us receive our Ingathering as a gift.
May it inspire renewed commitment to our great covenant of Love, Hope, and Faith.
May our eyes be opened to opportunities for broad ministry within, throughout, and beyond.
And may the blessings we come to know through that vision be a blessing to the world.


Introductory Remarks for Water Communion Ritual

We gather in community to worship at a corner of our year as a church. This morning we carry love and hope and courageous faith, and seek to renew our covenantal commitments. We remind ourselves of the home we share, a home that we come back to, whether after a long or short absence, a home we welcome all to make their own: a home of love and hope and faith—come, let us gather together within.

And, we gather ritually this morning—carrying gifts of our summer—symbols of the water that we have been present with, and which has been present to us.

These symbols may call to mind light summer showers, thunderstorms, dewy mornings, and misty evenings. Or moments at oceansides, poolsides, riversides, lakesides—swimming, fishing, hiking, strolling—and who we were with while there, even if we were alone. Perhaps we found ourselves in the presence of water during a moment of grief or birth or rebirth. Or, perhaps in a mundane place whose sacredness is palpable nonetheless.

We reflect upon what we brought with us to these moments and places, in backpacks and coolers, surely—but moreso, what spiritual, emotional or other baggage we carried. And what we did with it while we were in these watery places and moments.

Did the water’s unprovoked and indefatigable resiliency inspire you? Or its serenity? Maybe its waxing and waning tides? The music of its motion, or the silence of its sleep?

Did you feel the interdependent web of all existence coming alive in those moments? Some of you may have had the gift of a momentary spiritual epiphany. Others of you a growing awareness of how this very water is like strands of the web, and how the web is us… and everything.

Perhaps the ties to spiritual companions throughout the world come clearer and clearer. Bring to mind the monsoon rains that our UU partners in the Philippines and India know; or the churning ocean that the Uus in Tierra del Fuego know; the rivers and valleys of Transylvania; or Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika present to Uus in Kenya, Uganda and Burundi. What brings these companions, like us, to the water? What does the water bring to them, like us?

How glorious. How sacred. How peaceful. Let us rest and rely on that truth in a moment of silence.

Blending Waters

And now, come forward to add the water you have carried with you.

Depending upon your congregation’s tradition, you may invite participants to describe the origin of the water they are bringing. Or, to offer one word the water carries for them. Or, in silence, or with contemplative music, or while singing a hymn like “Wade in the Water” or “Shall we gather at the river? Or “I’ve got Peace like a River”

After the waters have been gathered, conclude with the following paragraph.


May our gathering together this morning be a blessing for one and all. May it inspire us to a year of hope and love and courageous faith. And may we walk that year in the full awareness—as often as possible—of the blessed ties that bind each to all. Amen.