Monday, April 7, 2008

Another Faith Experience

An Afternoon with Gaia

For someone who steadfastly avoided any faith path whatsoever for so many years, I sure have been busy catching up ever since arriving in Kansas City in the summer of 2005. My home church, Country Club Congregational, is a member of the United Church of Christ. But its not the only place I've enjoyed service or fellowship. I have attended service at Abiding Peace Lutheran (ELCA), Broadway Church (American Baptist), Epworth-Roanoke Methodist (UMC), Colonial Church of Prairie Village (UCC) and twice attended the summer retreat with GALA (Gays and Lesbians Acceptance) with Community of Christ.

This weekend was yet another experience - the Gaia Community, a specific group within Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist. I was invited to offer my Transgender Awareness presentation as they are in the process of becoming an officially declared Welcoming Congregation within the UU tradition. Gaia celebrates an Earth-oriented faith that is what is termed "neo-pagan". They are polytheistic, but adopt a patron deity for each new year. They were in the early stages of that determination process as I joined them. I was intrigued by the 20 or so small jars set out on a table each with its own name affixed as a label. Members then were to place coins into the jar or jars of those they preferred. The process will winnow a few from this week and continue until they have made the final choice. I found it an interesting way to make your sentiments known, but also serve as a fundraiser for the group.

The presentation was well-received and the members were both engaged and engaging. I had a wonderful time talking and interacting with these most peaceful souls. And this day was more class than service. But at the end of our afternoon, all rose and joined hands forming a circle. Then a concluding message is shared. I was touched by the dual genderedness of the sonnet:

"By the Earth that is Her body,
And the grove that is His home,
By the Air that is Her breath,
And the music of His song,
By the Fire of Her bright spirit,
And the heat of His passion,
By the Waters of Her living womb,
And the dew that is His tears,
The Circle is open, but unbroken.
May the peace of the Goddess go in our hearts,
And the dance of the God enliven our days.
And may we care for the Earth and each other,
Because our lives depend on it.
Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again!"

Many transgender women in particular pursue the neo-pagan traditions - Gaia, Wicca, Celtic mysticism, Native American spirituality. My sense is that these beliefs are all very empowering toward women. As a male-to-female proceeds to their desired self, they are, essentially, empowering their womanhood. It is sad, in my opinion, that many within the Abrahamic faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - often purport or condone less than affirming tenets regarding women. Women can't be ministers, rabbis or imams. Women must be subservient to men. Women are to be denied a voice or a vote.

The purpose of this blog is to connect the Transgender and Faith communities. I don't believe Christianity has a monopoly on those choices.

My thanks for their hospitality and warmth. My best wishes for their pursuit as an officially Welcoming Congregation of the Unitarian Universalists. And my journey continues....


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for coming and speaking with us last Sunday, Donna.

Two clarifications/points you may be interested in:
* Gaia Community is actually a separate congregation from Shawnee Mission UU Church, our larger bretheren that we rent space from.
* We've been experimenting with an even broader, all-encompassing version of our standard closing, that places "their" in place of "his/her" in most places, with a few other changes. It's still a work in progress, though...

Thanks, again.

David, GC Webmaster/Ritualist

Donna said...

Hey David,

Thanks for the clarifications!