EcoConfirmation Liturgy with Cosmic Walk – Episcopal Diocese of California
The Diocese of California first did a Cosmic Walk in 2006 as part of the celebrations surrounding the investiture of Bishop Marc Andrus. It helped link his ministry in this unique place to a deep and abiding spirituality that resides within nature. As part of our ongoing work to care for creation and bring awareness to the issues in our own backyard the Cosmic Walk has been adapted and modified since that time as the world around us changes. One of the biggest changes we made was to adapt it into an EcoConfirmation service, combining the promises made to the church with those we make to each other and to creation itself.
The Cosmic Walk is a ritual originally created by Sr. Miriam MacGillis of Genesis Farm in New Jersey as a way of bringing our knowledge of the 14-billion-year universal expansion from our heads to our hearts. It is a simple ritual that can be performed in a large room or outdoors. A spiral representing the entire 14 billion years of the cosmic evolutionary journey is laid out on the floor or ground.
Pictured: Confirmands prepare for the Cosmic Walk in 2019 at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland. Photo: Sheila Andrus
The stations can be adapted and changed to fit your specific location, time constraints, and personal preferences. The Cosmic Walk posted below has all of the steps we have used – but not at the same time. These are many of the options, feel free to add or remove as you would like. In fact, we encourage you to customize it for your specific landscape and context. We have always added at least one station specific to where we were at the time – speaking of cargo shipping and carbon emissions from the ships when we were in the Port of Oakland, mentioning the military batteries that were carved into the cliffs of San Francisco when we were in the Presidio, and lamenting the impact of gasoline processing when we were overlooking oil refineries in Richmond.
At Genesis Farm the spiral is painted on the floor of the library, since our EcoConfirmations have been outdoors, we laid out a rope in the spiral form. The spiral should be at least 140 feet long with each instance of emergence in time marked at a proportionate distance along the length of the spiral. We used rope with knots to mark each station. For the 140 foot rope, every 10 feet equals 1 billion years, so we spaced knots using that ratio.
Once the spiral is laid out on the ground each station is marked in some way. The original plans use votive candles. Due to California’s recent experiences with fires, we used small bowls and water.
The first station, located at the very center of the spiral, represents the Flaring Forth of the universe itself. This primary emergence is represented by a lit candle, if using votives, or a large bowl of water in our modification. The walker, lights a candle from the primary candle and walks the spiral, starting with the Flaring Forth and lighting each candle in turn. Or they use a small bowl to take water from the central bowl out to the bowls at each station. This walk is synchronized with the reading of each station by a series of readers.
Pictured: Alisa Rasera serving as the cosmic walker. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service
There are varied the ways in which to “walk” the spiral. We have had a dancer improvise movements between the center bowl and each station while volunteers read each part. We have also simply passed the small bowl around the circle asking each person present to take turns walking the water from the center bowl to the outlying stations as designated readers took turns on the readings.
Since The Cosmic Walk was born, many variations in text, process, and music have emerged. The accompanying Universe Story is based primarily on a modification by Larry Edwards, Ph.D. This Cosmic Walk, A California Story, also has descriptions to include the deep time story of the San Francisco Bay area, with gratitude to Bruce Bochte, Board of Directors, The Bay Institute, and Jim Lacefield, Ed.D., author of Lost Worlds in Alabama Rocks.
The Eucharistic Prayer was written by Salal + Cedar Watershed Discipleship Community with adaptation for California done by Rev. Ellen Clark-King.
Questions about EcoConfirmation can be sent to Caren Miles, Associate for Faith Formation, email@example.com