A River Water Blessing
by Michelle Johnson, guest contributor
Matt and Joy Scheidt were raised in the church, but in adulthood they’ve come to assimilate elements of many other spiritual traditions into their lives. When they wanted to welcome their infant son into the world, they drew on those traditions to create a water blessing and invited friends and family to a tributary of the Dan River in North Carolina.
"No matter which culture you come from in the world," Matt says, "there’s something innately essential to the value of ritual, however you might conduct that. I was raised Roman Catholic, and I was very heavily invested in serving the church," he continues. "I guess I kind of wandered. I don’t ascribe to one fixed belief system. I’d call myself an ‘ecumenical humanist,’" he says with a laugh.
"I can’t call myself an ecumenical humanist," says Joy, who grew up Episcopalian. "I think that’s too smart for me. I would say that I try to experience as much of the divine world in my life and the lives of others, guided by something innate that came to me when I was young, when I was born. I believe that we all inherently know what we are. There’s something true in us, and, if we’re in line with that, we’re really kind of hitting on life’s fullest potential."
Michelle Johnson is an audio journalist living in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This audio slideshow is part of “Sacred Rivers,” a multimedia documentary project under development that explores river rituals as a lens through which to see America’s changing cultural landscape. You can view more of her work at the Yadkin River Story.
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The Enchantment of Minnehaha Falls
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
A long, prosperous winter is coming to pass. The spring thaw is upon us in Minnesota. And, it feels so necessary. But, it’s not without some remorse, especially when taking in the shocking beauty of Minnehaha Falls captured in such exquisite light. The creek is now assuming its dutiful labor, the water wresting and freeing itself from its dormant state.
A big thanks to Al Gage for capturing this bit of nature!
An Icy Baptism
Rob McGinley Myers, Associate Producer
When we rebroadcast our show Pagans Ancient and Modern last spring, I was struck by the fact that the natural world was never a part of my religious upbringing. All the religious rituals I’ve participated in (save for a couple outdoor weddings) were conducted in churches. Hearing about the resurgence of Pagan rituals around Europe made me jealous. How much easier would it have been to pay attention to a church service if it were held around a bonfire on a chilly night?
And I thought of that again when I read this New York Times article about a Russian Orthodox Epiphany ritual that involves immersing one’s self in freezing water. I love the idea of such a ritual reminding people of the strength they have to continue with the hardships of their lives. And when asked why he participates in the ritual, an advertising manager named Vladislav Komarov says, “We are all pagans in our souls.”
Chilkoot Lake, Alaska
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
With summer comes travel, and the SOF staff is on the move. The beauty of Kate having an iPhone is that she occasionally sends the staff photos she’s taken from her travels. I find these shared gems give an insight into what she sees at a book event, an awards ceremony, or when she’s on vacation.
With a breathtaking backdrop like this, how can one not be inspired to come back and look for the story in other connected landscapes — which reminds me of our looking into Belgian bloembinder Daniel Ost and his sense that flowers and trees are not merely decorations but are a way for him to convey a sense of meaning through his work. From a piece in The New York Times Magazine:
“…flowers are connected with spirituality. In the West we use them in a purely decorative way, but in Japan they work with the flower’s soul to express not just beauty but ideas like death. … I’ve always wanted to show flowers in their optimum moment, but now that I’m older, I also want to explore the beauty of dying.”
(photo: Kate Moos)