Spiritual Sankofa

If you attended worship services in July you know our theme was genealogy, and we covered a lot of ground!  I shared stories of visits with my German family members who still live in Germany. I described relatives who fought in the Civil War. And I encouraged us all to practice the Ghanan idea of Sankofa – go back fetch the past in order build a healthy future. I described how some people think the reason so many White Americans have a fascination with Native American and African American spirituality is that they have never practiced spiritual Sankofa. They’ve never gone back into their own White histories to discover rituals and practices of their lineage.

I am a White woman, and I’m one of those people. My great, great, great grandparents, the McCalls, came to the United States from Northern Ireland. So, I’ve been reaching back to uncover my Irish spiritual roots.

Celtic Christian practices are much more in line with Unitarian Universalism than Roman Christianity ever was. For example, our UU First Principle – The inherent worth and dignity of every person – can be traced to Celtic theologian Pelagius. John Philip Newell is one of my favorite authors, a theologian and scholar of Celtic Spirituality; I find myself turning to his work often. And then there’s John O’Donohue whose poetry and writing has inspired me for some time.

Before Christianity, there was (and still is) Indigenous Celtic Wisdom. Growing up in Christian America, I was never aware of it, and it’s only in the last year or so that I have begun to explore.

I found the ancient creation legend which involves Brigid of Ireland. In it, the Earth is a chaotic mess and cries out in pain. Brigid hears it and claims, “The Earth cries because it has dreamed of Beauty… The Earth has dreamed of the white stillness of dawn; of the star that goes before the sunrise; and of music like the music of my song.” And so Brigid throws her mantle around the chaos of the earth, and “makes gladness in the abyss.” She brings forth a lush landscape through her compassionate creativity.

There are three things that strike me about this story. One is how the Earth dreams of Beauty.  Our theme this month is Vision, and dreaming is how we create a vision for the future. What do you think the Earth is dreaming now? How could your dreams be influenced by the dreams of the Earth?   

The other thing about the story is Brigid’s compassion and creativity. I’m wondering how each of us is creating with compassion in this world of ours.

And lastly, Brigid “made gladness in the abyss.” It seems like we really need some of that in this day and age. How are you using your gifts to “make gladness?”

Those are some things to consider this month! As always, I’m grateful for our spiritual community and each of you.

Rev. Kelly


Photo of Unitarian Church in Charleston taken by David Ray