DIY Water of Life Participatory Liturgy | LENT 2022 - Reservoir Church
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DIY Water of Life Participatory Liturgy | LENT 2022

Ivy Anthony

Apr 11, 2022


  • Tissue paper – variety of colors
  • Gold tissue paper – 3 strips
  • Permanent marker
  • Canvas
  • Bowl/vessel of water
  • Floating candle

 INTRO | “Water of Life”

This year’s season of Lent has been centered around the theme, “Water of Life.” Acknowledging in part that many of us might need some of that “flow from Jesus” – as we feel weary and dry – after two years of constant change, loss and interruption. So we have been exploring, reflecting, meandering through art – trying spiritual practices – seeking a balm for our aching souls. Seeking refreshment, restoration –  the love and presence of Jesus. Water of life to us.

As companions along your journey, you’ll have the accompaniment of Ruby Sales, a legendary civil rights activist and public theologian. Her prophetic voice continues to be a wise and steady one that seeds grounded hope at every turn.  And you’ll also hear Psalm 23 repeated at various points. Personal reflection, some movement, LOTS OF WATER TIME, some song and some sharing…will also all be components of this time together. 

Speaking of components  – you should have nearby lots of tissue paper shapes, and 3 strips of gold tissue paper, as well as a permanent marker.  

 One last bit before we get going, you will hear, see and be invited to speak a refrain at various points throughout the time, “all shall be well” – it’s by Julian of Norwich, a 14th century mystic. I want to be clear from the top – that “all shall be well” – is not a hollow sentiment, detached from reality. It is a bold, prophetic prayer – and a recognition that all is NOT well –  but in the same breath expresses a longing to be in partnership with God – in creating a world as we can imagine and hope it to be…this is the spirit of how we will engage with “all shall be well,” this morning. 

PRAYER: Thank you Jesus for your presence here this morning. Thank you that you are near to us, even when we aren’t with ourselves. Thank you that you speak to our spirit in ways we can not always comprehend – but in ways that are always balm to our souls.  Amen.

PART #1 | Hurt

You’ll now hear audio from an interview with Ruby Sales in September of 2016. 

Here, she is reflecting on a memory  –  and a question in particular – that broke open a new way for her to continue to do the unending work  – the lifetime work –  of working and fighting for justice.  

2 min. AUDIO: | Ms. Sales

“A defining moment for me happened when I was getting my locks washed, and my locker’s daughter came in one morning, and she had been hustling all night. And she had sores on her body. And she was just in a state — drugs. So something said to me, ask her: “Where does it hurt?” And I said, “Shelley, where does it hurt?”

And just that simple question unleashed territory in her that she had never shared with her mother.  She talked about all of the things that had happened to her as a child. And she literally shared the source of her pain. And I realized, in that moment, listening to her and talking with her, that I needed a larger way to do this work.” 


This question,“where does it hurt?” is a divine question. 

One that Jesus might wonder and pose to us as well.

Today – this is our starting point,

“Where does it hurt?”

*Where have you felt and seen hurt?

I invite you to write these hurts down.

On your tissue paper strips and squares.  

*write as many that come to mind (one one each piece of paper) – one right after the other.

*you will not be asked to share these hurts outloud 

*and if you can’t come to write a hurt – (it’s too deep, too real to give name to)  – just select a piece of tissue paper, and hold it alongside the others.

Where have you felt and seen hurt?


Maybe you are hurt as you witness the hurt of others. Those you love, those who are strangers-alike.

Maybe you worry for your kids so much it hurts.

Maybe you feel helpless in the face of world-scale atrocities and injustice…

Maybe you’ve been hurt by someone.

Maybe you are hurt by the words you say to yourself.


I invite you to take your tissue paper to water (could be a bowl, a bucket, a sink, etc).

Take your hurts and release them to the waters of life. 

Let them be held and soak in the love of God.

One by one by one, place your hurts in the water.



In the wake of having been with your hurts, we invite you to listen to the reading of Psalm 23. As you do, allow the words to wash over you as a prayer –  what word, phrase, imagery stands out to you as the balm your heart might need today?


Invite someone to read Psalm 23

Invite someone to read, “all shall be well” (2 times) in their mother tongue.

As you are ready, write that word that you are receiving as a balm on one of the strips of gold.  


We are going to ask you to come back to the waters of life now, where our community’s hurts are all laid out – and you will come with that gold strip (your word of balm from God) in your hand as well. 

As you come to the water pick up a few pieces of tissue paper from the water, *know that these will not be your own hurts* – it will be those of this community, and carry them – with care –  to the canvas.

Lay those hurts on the canvas, as well as the little bit of balm from God.

It’s ok if the hurts twist or fold a little on each other, or layer upon one another. We all hurt.

Try to lay them out flat as best you can on the canvas..  

As you place all the hurts and balm on the wall – you may want to seal it with the prayer, “all shall be well.”


PART # TWO | Candles & God with us

You’ll now hear Ruby’s voice again, as well as a version of Psalm 23 again – as you do, think about how you resonate with this promise, “God has been with you – even when you haven’t been with yourself.” 

AUDIO | Ms. Sales

“I was riding down the road one day in Washington, D.C. after having been at a demonstration against the war in Iraq, and suddenly, out of nowhere, I started crying. And I realized that God had been with me, even when I hadn’t been with myself.” 

Speaker in room:

God is with me……….. even when I am not with myself. (x2)

God is with you…………….. even when you are not with yourself.  (x2)

God is with us ………. even when we are not with ourselves. (x2)

 Music & Speaking

 Psalm 23 & Verses & Pre-Chorus of Feeling Low.


As you’ve thought about that promise, “God is with you, even when you haven’t been with yourself,”  write down one of these phrases (below), on a gold strip. 

 “Please” – (I long to feel this truth)

“Thanks” – (I have felt it, I am grateful for it, I believe it). 

“Help” – (I don’t even know where to begin – I’m at a loss, .I’m stuck, numb)

Come to the water with that gold strip, place it in the water and light a candle as a representation of your truest, deepest prayer in these hurts.  

Let this candle float among the many – held, seen, burning … 

Sometimes we need our prayers buoyed by the spirit and light of others. 


As you make your way back to your seats, we’ll hear from Ruby one last time

AUDIO | Ms. Sales:

“And I realized that God had been with me, even when I hadn’t been with myself. And those moments made me really begin to seek to go back, to really think deeply about black folk religion and to really want to develop, in a very intentional way, an inner life that had to do with how I lived in the world.”


As you listen to Psalm 23 for the final time,  you will encounter these themes again that stir the deepest parts of your inner life  – longings for restoration, comfort, God’s presence in times of fear, for goodness and mercy..  They are also themes that ask us – how our personal life extends, greets, and meets the world we live in.  How does our cup run over….?

How is it that,

As we recognize our personal need for restoration, 

We play a part in the restoration of the world around us? 


How is it that,

As we recognize our longing for comfort, 

That we contribute to the longing of others’ comfort?


How is that,

As we recognize our own fear,

We also become aware of how many around us are afraid? 


How is it that we contribute to the collective hope for goodness and mercy in our personal and public spheres?

As you listen to this Psalm now, think about this:  

What is your offering? Your little bit of balm to the collective need and hope – that “all shall be well”?


Invite someone to read Psalm 23

Invite someone to read “all shall be well” in their own language.

I’m going to invite you to write down on your last gold strip – what you imagine you can offer as a little bit of balm to the world around you? People in front of you, where you live, what you care about… 

 (examples: Maybe it is a place of rest for someone? (your shoulder to lean on, your couch, your smile.)

Maybe it’s your attentive listening – that allows you to ask a compassionate question , like Ruby’s. 

Maybe it’s offering a word of encouragement…  a text, a phone call, .. A song… A dance!

Inviting someone to your table… 

Cooking meals for refugees

Maybe it’s volunteering somewhere

Maybe it’s reducing your carbon footprint


As you are ready, write one thought/idea down on the last strip of gold.

What can you imagine that you could offer as a little bit of balm?



Turn to the folks you are nearby – and share what you wrote on your gold paper.  

Just read it. No extra texture.


Folks that are listening can respond, “All shall be well”


As you are ready and done sharing… go to the waters again, dip your gold strip in the presence and love of God and In some manner let this be the purest offering we can make to the world around us. 

In some manner let these words become an active balm.

In some manner may “all manner of things be well.” 



SONG: “Feeling Low” by Will Reagan