I’ve just returned from Union Theological Seminary in New York, where I was working with Claudio Carvales, a professor of worship, and his students in a course called Creating Rituals in Community: The Work of Mourning The Earth.
Together they design rituals in class, then enact them publicly in James Chapel. Recently, they confessed to plants. A Union Seminary communications officer posted a photo and tweet about the ritual that evoked a Twitterstorm. Many editorials and reports were written, all of them without any firsthand knowledge of the event or from seeing the video of the entire ritual.
In class they were reading an article I wrote, “Performance is Currency in the Deep World’s Gift Economy: An Incantatory Riff for a Global Medicine Show.”
Claudio has now posted a response to the storm with an article in Sojourners on YouTube:
The week after the Twitterstorm about the ritual of talking to plants, there was another ecologically oriented ritual in James Chapel. Participants were invited to plant seeds, actually bulbs, in the quadrangle.
I chose to plant mine in a place where it would have the least chance to grow, “up against the wall” (we used to chant that phrase at Columbia University in the 60s). This was a plywood construction wall, painted green, probably so we’d imagine it as ecological. The wall now protects the new high rise that Union Seminary is building. The building will use half the quadrangle, barely enough room for a small Dutch tulip garden.
Come, crocus, come. Come in the spring, upstage the wall.
I’m still pondering seeds and remember the parable:
Jesus told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand” (Matthew 13).