Tobacco Ceremony at Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp, Mahwah, NJ
Photo credit: Roberto Mukaro Borrero
10:00 AM: This morning in worship at White Plains Presbyterian Church we lit the second candle of Advent. This candle was lit to honor water: the waters of Mary’s womb, the river Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, the sea of Tiberius, the well of Jacob, the drink of living water that Jesus offered to the woman from Samaria. Jeff preached about the crooked paths made straight by the work of justice. We shared a communion feast and then a potluck feast in the church house.
2:00 PM: I joined over 150 people gathered for a Tobacco ceremony at the Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp, the ceremonial land of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation in Mahwah, NJ. Standing in a circle around the sacred fire a small group from the Ramapough have kept burning for months, we were invited to offer prayers of gratitude and to place a pinch of sweet tobacco offering in a bowl at the circle’s center. At the conclusion of the ceremony circle, Grandmother Deborah led us to the bank of the Ramapo River where she placed the prayers on the water. A sung prayer echoed over the river, a prayer for all the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, for the safety of Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp facing daily police surveillance, for the seven generations who will follow us, and for the water we are called to protect for our lives and for theirs.
5:00 PM: Christmas errands, a run to Goodwill to donate some old bureaus taking up space where the tree will go. On our way to Nanuet, I saw the news: the US Army Corps denies easement permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be constructed beneath the Missouri River! Maybe I’ll always remember that already dark 5 p.m. drive to Nanuet when news of victory popped up on my phone? Maybe the victories will be too many to remember in years to come? I tried to give this moment of joy its full measure, joy for what the Standing Rock Sioux and Water Protectors struggled to protect and what is now safe even for just this moment.
9:30 PM: Advent devotional at the dining room table with Will. We read Psalm 72, which voices longing for a ruler who embodies God’s justice, who is “like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.” Advent is a thirsty season that makes every drop of water – every glimpse of justice alive in this world – sweet and full of joy.
Sarah Henkel is a Teaching Elder. She is a resident at Stony Point Center and member of the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith community of Jews, Muslims, and Christians dedicated to the practice and study of radical hospitality, justice, and nonviolence.