Thoughts from a Thinking Cup ~ from Alan                                                                  

(Working remotely this morning from one of my favorite Boston coffee spots: The Thinking Cup in the North End)

 

After thirty-eight years in ministry, first experiences are rarer to come by, which makes me even more grateful when they still occasionally do.

I married Tim and Diane in 1985. They were nominally Episcopalian, but neither ever attended church, and since we lived in such a small town, they asked me to officiate. Though we remained acquaintances, we never became good friends, yet Tim and I had the kind of bond that whenever we saw each other, we could make each other laugh and shared some level of connection.

Two months ago a heart attack dropped Tim; at age 58, he was gone instantly. Diane let me know his life would be celebrated with a July picnic, and asked me to offer a few words. To say I “officiated” would be to put too fine a point on it - it was more like I gathered the crowd together, said a few personal words of remembrance and read something Diane had asked for. Then, what came next was a first for me: I co-“officiated” with a Native American Shaman. Doug was a long-time friend of Tim’s late father - they had served together in the military. Doug distributed springs of sage to all of us, lit a few and placed them on the ground, stood, and began an ancient chant for the dead as his wife sang quietly in the background. It was an incredible experience, both spiritually and emotionally (though the spirit is never far from the emotions, is it?). He asked me assist him in his prayer, which I did, and together we offered a blessing on all of Tim’s family, which was considerable.

I have officiated at services with a variety of colleagues: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Zen, Orthodox, but this was the first time I was privileged to stand with a Shaman and call upon, not just the spirit of God, but the spirit of earth, sky and water. It was a powerful moment, and reason #567,992 why I love what I do.

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