by Georgette Kelly
As we begin Holy Week and prepare to leave Lent, I am pre-occupied with change.
Blogging through Lent has been a very tangible form of devotion for me. It has channeled my energy and thoughts into active reflection. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and would like to say thank you to everyone who has read my posts and talked to me about them. It has been such a gift to continue reflecting through conversation with you. In some ways I am sad now, to know that the season is changing, and that I will stop blogging with Holy Covenant. In other ways, it is a relief to know that I have one less writing assignment on my plate. The change is bittersweet.
I am also looking ahead to a change in my commitment to church in general: next week, on Easter Sunday, I will be joining Holy Covenant. I have been involved in the church for almost two years, and joining now does truly feel like a joyful homecoming. I am thrilled to affirm my relationship with the church through membership vows, but I anticipate that this change will be very emotionally challenging. I have never officially joined a church on my own—I am still technically a member of my parents’ church. In some ways, I am sad to sever that tie and to strike out on my own. I am also saddened to remember the years where I did not feel comfortable in church at all. This change too, is bittersweet.
In other areas of my life—my work, my relationships, my art—change seems to be my constant. I know this is true for many of us at Holy Covenant. We are all discerning, seeking, wondering what is next.
So, in my Sabbath quest to cope with all the changes, I have been taking baths.
I started Lent on Ash Wednesday with a bath. I book-ended it with another bath on Palm Sunday. I indulged in a number of them in between. I haven’t taken so many baths since I was a child—normally I shower quickly, functionally. These baths have served as a kind of Sabbath for me. They have allowed me to slow down and recharge. They have pushed me to steep in my indecision, my yearning, my discerning. I soak and pray and think and wonder, until my fingers turn into raisins. And I usually emerge with some clarity, even if there are no answers.
These baths have gotten me thinking about the Jewish tradition of mikvehs. A mikveh is a ritual bath for the purpose of purification or a new beginning. In other words, a baptism.
Last year, my dear friend Rebecca Kling (www.rebeccakling.com) participated in a mikveh in Lake Michigan as a part of her solo performance piece titled “Uncovering the Mirrors.” The piece dealt with her experience with Judaism as a transgender woman. The text surrounding her mikveh focused on a new beginning with her gender. The ritual of immersion in the lake was a tangible way to be washed clean of the past. It celebrated the difficulty of her journey and the joy of the changes in her life. It was deeply moving.
As I move closer to joining Holy Covenant, I have been thinking about my baptism. Because it happened when I was a baby, I often take it for granted. At times in my life, it has felt like an empty ritual. But recently, surrounded by the community at Holy Covenant, it has felt like an enormous gift.
Now, when I remember my baptism, I think of it as a fresh start, an acceptance of change, and a reassurance that God sees me as my best self. It is a covenant—a promise of life.
My Sabbath baths have been an echo of my baptism. In the context of Lent, they have been a cleansing ritual—I soak, I pray, and I am changed.