By now, some of you have no doubt noticed me wearing a head wrap on Sundays. Yes, it is significant!
Here’s what happened:
Over the past couple of years, I have been exploring a spiritual practice from my Puerto Rican heritage called “la mesa blanca.” It is one of several manifestations of Espiritismo (Spiritualism), which enjoyed popularity in the late 1900s and which several of my recent ancestors practiced.
La mesa blanca (the white table) is a spiritual communion practice with one’s spirit guides, their “cuadro” (court). It is a foundation for mediumship that emphasizes continual elevation of oneself and one’s guides toward the greater evolution that eventually reunites us with God.
La mesa blanca is predicated on the fundamental understanding that we have a choice in how we are affected by and influence, in turn the world of spirit around us. Like personal health and hygiene, la mesa blanca is about being intentional in one’s attitude, inner growth, spiritual sensitivity, generosity, and being the best version of yourself you can be.
Once upon a time and not that long ago, I tended to dismiss such “purity” focused practices as airy-fairy, fluffy spiritualities that did not want to deal with, embrace, or acknowledge the shadow parts of ourselves. But I have reached a place in my own growth in which I find myself desperately needing a spiritual, guiding single-mindedness that helps me to weather the chaotic emotional energies around me in the world. I feel it is more important than ever to be a temple of the Divine in the world. I doubt that my new practice and outlook, happening amidst a constant rise of fear, hostility, and hatred in the U.S., is a coincidence.
So I have brought my spiritual practice to church. I have la mesa blanca in my office, where I sometimes commune with my spirit guides. I read prayers and sing songs meant to uplift not only me, but them also, to strengthen the whole frame of my being, material and invisible.
I wear white because it symbolizes to the spirits that I am open to receiving messages and that I have approached a holy space in a holy manner. I decided to wear white on my head on Sundays because the work I am doing with you in our Unitarian Universalist congregation is holy. I wear it to remind me of this. Having this spiritual reminder makes all my priorities suddenly much clearer, and difficult decisions are much easier. The second reason is that I am attempting to set an example. I want to start normalizing speaking about and living spiritual practices and beliefs among us so that we can see them in living color.
Unitarian Universalists have a way of being so careful about not acknowledging any specific religious path that we too often end up talking around the spiritual altogether. People who try to understand us sense that there is nothing in our center. UU worship can sometimes feel like a dinner party for an honored guest who never shows up. This is not just my opinion; this is feedback that often comes to us from people exploring us for the first time and looking for a faith community. And the proof of failing to communicate our center can be seen and heard in our children and youth, who struggle to articulate our adult over-preoccupation with qualifying everything we say. They are encouraged to explore spiritual practices, but how would they even know what that looks like, when they only ever see it from the outside of other faith traditions? The implicit message we continue to send is that spiritual practice is something for others, not well informed, reasonable people like us!
Meanwhile, many of us hunger for authenticity, for openness in our worship, ritual, and living out faith. We are also battered on all sides by the troubled waters around us, wondering each day if they may actually consume the world in a catastrophic, proverbial flood. How do you stand against an ocean?
Outside these walls (the invisible walls of our interconnected community), the political and culture wars are like poison gas. Outside of our beloved Unitarian Universalist covenant, there is a surge of chaos, fear, and confusion. If we are going to stand against it, if, even, we are going to be a beacon in the darkness of chaos, we must be the place where light lives. It must be here within and among us, tended like the flame of our chalice on Sunday morning, a vestal, holy fire that can direct others to a different path, and a different way.
This I believe. And I invite each and every one of you this year, 2022-23, to join me in embracing a spiritual single-mindedness, the kind that directs everything else in your life, all your decisions, and especially, your way of being in church! I invite the UU Christians to stop hiding behind the fear or pain of past persecutions! It may be that there are some young ones who need to see how a progressive faith that celebrates Jesus’ humanity stands up far stronger than the flimsy, toxic, divine retribution-delivering Jesus that is so prevalent everywhere we turn.
I invite us all to use the God or faith or mindfulness language that happens to feel most comfortable to us individually and become a community where plurality of faith and practice is visible, normal, and comfortable!
You don’t have to believe the same as me. We need not think alike to love alike. Whatever it is you believe, I invite you to bring it with you loud and clear, so that our younger ones can see what that might look like, and have a chance to find something that speaks to them, something that will strengthen and sustain them far beyond what we may be lucky enough to witness in our time.
One or two more things: I am looking for people of faith and conviction to teach in RE. You are especially encouraged to volunteer! Secondly, and I will say more about this another time, do not be surprised if you notice drastic changes to certain areas of the building; I have a vision of making this place feel like an oasis of learning, where there is always something that causes reflection, and encourages understanding of our historical liberal faith tradition.