Four people with taper candles light chalice framed by two rings

“Our Beautiful Blue Boat Home” – September 10th, 2023

Sep 12, 2023

blessing the boats
By Lucille Clifton

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back     may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Reflection and Ritual:

“Our Beautiful Blue Boat Home”

Here’s something fun: did you know that UUs have nicknamed a particular hymn that we love to sing the “Freebird of Unitarian Universalism”? Apparently, when thousands of us gather at General Assembly every year, if this hymn plays, people tweet and shout out “Freebird!” And, yes, even hold their hands up in the air with lighters or phone flashlights to mimic the frenzy that Lynyrd Skynyrd whipped up in people with his 1960’s rock anthem, Freebird.

Any guesses which hymn this is?

Our music director, Charlyn Bethell, confirmed that this congregation is no different from our sibling congregations in its love for this hymn. She reports that most often when lay leaders plan worship they choose this hymn, and that when our youth or kids plan worship Blue Boat Home is a staple.

None of this is surprising. It’s got it all. A stellar rhythm and sweet rolling melody that you can’t help but sway to; and a message that does what often seems impossible in our faith: captures a unified belief and aspiration and identity for a people who arrive with a variety of beliefs and aspirations and identities. Puts us all in one beautiful Blue Boat Home.

It’s a hymn about belonging. It’s a hymn about remembrance. It’s a hymn about connection to Earth, Universe, Spirit, and one another. It’s a hymn about faith. It’s a hymn about forgiveness and compassion. It’s a hymn about questions and wonder. And motion and unknown-ness and joy and sorrow and me and you and we: kindred pilgrim souls making our way by the lights of the heavens in our beautiful blue boat home.

And it is also a blessing hymn. And who doesn’t want and love a good blessing? I could use all the blessings I can get these days.

Blessings are aspirational. They are meant to be returned to when we find ourselves pulled away from ourselves or one another or God. Often, not always, they use the words ‘May.’ May you, may we…And they Bless the path ahead–or help us to remember that there is a path at all. Remind us that we are not lost. In Blue Boat Home, we are reminded that the “Sun is our sail and the moon is our rudder.” The blessing is: remember that! None of us alone, or adrift, or solely at the helm here. Whew!

Our poet, says it this way in blessing of the boats–the stunning and prolific Lucille Clifton–“may the tide that is entering even now/ the lip of our understanding/ carry you out/beyond the face of fear…..may you kiss/the wind then turn from it/certain that it will/love your back…may you open your eyes to water/water waving forever/and may you in your innocence/sail through this to that…”

When there is a lot of uncertainty about life…when we don’t know exactly what is going to happen or how we are going to solve the problems we are facing or answer the questions we have or untie the knots in our life…I find it helps to step back and take a grander view.  Look to the wisdom of the blessing. So that we might know that we really are kindred pilgrim souls–this is the grander view– being moved forward with a divine and loving wind at our backs. We will sail through this to that. We always have, and we forever will. Our ancestors did. Our young ones here will–yes, they too will sail through this to that. And they will do it beautifully. Hopefully better than we did–that is always our hope for the next generation, isn’t it?

We have brought water today to worship. That’s what we UU’s do to bless the church year, bless the building, this sanctuary, our faith community–all our hopes and needs and good works in the days ahead. Our waters are symbols of who we are as individual blessings, gathered from places that are indeed bless-ed and that speak to our hearts–oh, that matters–and we allow these waters to comingle as a symbol of the diversity that exists here. In belief, in aspiration, in identity.

And our waters become holy in the comingling. That is what holiness means to me: comingled.

So, let’s partake in this ritual with all of this mind. Before we do this, quiet yourselves and consider this question: What is the blessing you are bringing to us this year AND what is the blessing you are needing? Let the water communion begin.

Closing Blessing of the Waters: I will now pour this water, sourced from this church today and from the waters you brought last year, to represent all those who are joining us from home, all those who aren’t able to be here, all those who have come before us. Let it also symbolize all those who have yet to come.

Spirits of the waters, spirits of the land, ancestors, spirits of this place, and the wide Universe: We have gathered water as a sign of respect, for this our precious Earth, and for one another. May this water teach us and remind us to be healers and good allies to this land, its oceans and waterways, and its people. One another. Ourselves. As we mark the beginning of a church year together, may this water bless this building, all that we do within and beyond its walls, and may it bless each of us: above us, below us, around us. From our hearts, minds, lips, to everyone.

The water has been blessed, as have we. AMEN!

Let’s sing Blue Boat Home #1064


Reverend Sophia Lyons
Website | + posts

Rev. Sophia is committed to radical welcome and spreading the good news that is our bold Unitarian Universalist faith. Some of her areas of interest include interfaith partnerships, addictions ministry, spiritual direction, and working towards collective liberation for all. Rev. Sophia aspires to live her life and fulfill her ministry guided by spiritual seeking, big love, and the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism.

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