Ceremonies and the pandemic

I have been thinking and praying, trying to discern what the Spirit is asking of me in these times of confusion, fear and violence. Violence in the sense of tearing apart the fabric of our lives, as well as the physical violence arising in our midst. The violence of the virus. What does nonviolence mean today?

So many things no longer make sense, which reminds me of something I had written titled Sensemaking.

…there remains the most existential risk of them all: our diminishing capacity for collective sensemaking. Sensemaking is the ability to generate an understanding of world around us so that we may decide how to respond effectively to it. When this breaks down within the individual, it creates an ineffective human at best and a dangerous one at worst. At the collective level, a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems like those described above. When that happens the centre cannot hold.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium
June 18, 2019

Where do we turn for answers to what does make sense? People of the Spirit know that is where we will find answers. It can be frustrating when we feel we have an urgent need for help. But the answer will come in its own time. Part of faith is believing not only that the Inner Light will reveal the answers to us, but will do so at the right time.

I recently heard Freda Huson, of the Wet’wuwet’en people, say “I believe in my prayers.”

I have been following and writing about the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en peoples to stop the construction of the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline on their unceded territory in British Columbia. I’m moved by the spiritual strength so many there have exhibited, on so many occasions.

I was led to see the article below this morning, during my usual scan of news related to the Wet’suwet’en peoples. It pertains to a situation I’ve been praying about lately, which is how do we Quakers adapt to not having face-to-face meetings because of the coronavirus?

These two articles are about the use of the videoconferencing software, Zoom, to connect people remotely for our recent Midyear Meeting, of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

There was very little time to come up with a solution once it was decided Midyear meeting would not be held as in person meetings. The meetings went very well for those who were able to connect using Zoom. A committee of Friends did a lot of excellent work in preparation for the meetings, including a lot of training for people not comfortable with Zoom.

The concern is about those who were not able to attend because they could not or would not use Zoom. This is an ongoing concern because it will be a long time until we can safely gather in person. It is a concern now because the annual meeting of Quakers who belong to Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) will be held in about two months. It has been decided that will not be a face to face meeting. People are working on how these meetings will be held.

I’m focused on one of the committees that meets during Yearly Meeting. I’m clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee. I just asked committee members whether they were comfortable using Zoom for our work. Not everyone is. Some who aren’t have said to go ahead without them, but I don’t think that is a good choice.

I haven’t come up with an answer yet. But I find the story below about ceremony during the time of the coronavirus very interesting.


An Indigenous leader is telling the RCMP to stay off reserve land after armed officers were dispatched to break up a sacred ceremony.

“These are First Nations lands. This is Indian land. Stay off our lands unless you are invited,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.

Public health orders do not supersede First Nations law and treaties, asserts Cameron, who added that maintaining tradition and ceremony is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our ceremonies, our sun dances, our sweat lodges, our pipe ceremonies will continue and no matter what any government or what the RCMP may try to say or do, those ways are going to continue.”

While powwows across the country have been cancelled, traditional ceremonies cannot be delayed, Cameron said. They cannot move online, like many church services, because they are inherently connected to the land.

Concern arose last weekend when about 35 people took part in a sun-dance ceremony organized by Clay Sutherland on the Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation, about 90 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. An elder had received a vision that it was important to hold the sacred ceremony to support people during COVID-19 and to empower scientists and researchers to find a cure, Sutherland said.

“We were doing this, not only for our communities and our loved ones, but we were doing this for all of mankind,” he said. “We did not expect to get a pushback from the government. We did not expect all these things to happen.”

A public health order in Saskatchewan limits gatherings to 10 people.

Sutherland said precautions were put in place and direction from the First Nation’s leadership was followed. People coming to the ceremony from off-reserve had their temperatures checked and were advised to self-isolate for the following two weeks.

RCMP attendance at Indigenous ceremony raises ire of chief. By Kelly Geraldine Malone, National Observer, May 14th 2020

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats

This entry was posted in Indigenous, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized, Wet’suwet’en. Bookmark the permalink.

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