I wrote the following for a private board over at Ship of Fools, and so I can't link to it. It's a report of what I did for Beltane using the format they use to review churches:
Mystery Worshipper: Mertseger
The church: Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
Denomination: The site itself hosts a wise variety of creation centered spirituality. The Tradition of the MW is the Third Road.
The building: The central feature of this ritual was a labyrinth (be sure to scroll down to see the picture) at the bottom on old rock quary.
The neighbourhood: This regional park contains many trails many of which pass into an area in which cows graze.
The cast: This was a solitary ritual walk.
What was the name of the service?
Beltane sunset ritual walk.
How full was the building?
I encountered maybe a dozen people, two dogs, two cottontail bunny rabbits, and I heard at least one quail.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
South-East of Round Top (lower right quadrant of the map) I was arrested by the unexpected sound of a door creaking open. As I walked on I heard it again. Finally, I saw a distant, tall stand of eucalyptis creaking in the wind. I fell quite naturallly into trance and briefly went deeply in to Faerie. I thanked the spirits and moved on.
Was your pew comfortable?
I did sit twice. First I sat at the center of the main labyrinth. That location is a bit cramped, and you can basically only sit there cross-legged. Later I sat on a boulder still warm from the afternoon sun which was quite nice.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I felt excited and expectant wondering what strange and mysterious events might occur in this ritual. I was not be disappointed.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
When I was due east of Round Top, I saw the bone white remains of some more eucalyptis that had been killed in wild fire maybe seven years ago. The trunks were glowing white in the late afternoon sun and my heart gasped at their beauty. I said, "Hello Lady."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
I used no formal ritual script, though I did invoke the Goddess and the God by singing a composition my teacher has written for such purposes. I thank them when the walk was done.
What musical instruments were played?
I sang the invocation, and much to my surprise and delight, someone had left a plastic recorder on the altar at the center of the first labryrinth. I accompanied the call of the quail with an improvised tune which matched the improvised song I sang earlier as I walked the labyrinth.
Did anything distract you?
Well, there were the usual worries that someone might interupt my private ritual as I walked the labyrinth or that I looked ridiculous. But those thoughts were fleeting, and people are generally polite and unobtrusive at Sibley.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The ritual was deeply meditative and experienced within a deep trance state.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
I did not have a watch, of course, and there was no sermon per se. However, I probably spent fifteen minutes at the heart of the labyrinth playing the recorder, appreciating the the various offerings on the altar, and writing a poem to leave behind.
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
I'd say an 6. I flubbed several notes at the top of the range of the instrument, and both the improvised song as I walked the labyrinth and the poem I wrote were probably pretty cliched. It's hard to do top notch stuff when you're whacked out in trance.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
This being Beltane, I had several prayers for my love life with my wife who is in China on business. There was also a deep joy at being to reconnect with this location and doing rituals after several years of not being able to find time to do so with work and being a father to a young boy.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
First as I descended into the quarry, I saw a cottontail when I had never seen one in these hills before. Next, the altar at the center of the main labyrinth included a lovely decorated goard, a white yarn dolly for the goddess and a little pewter Horned God. Finally, I later stood beneath a young oak as I watched the sun go down a bit north of the peak of Mt. Tamalpais across the Bay.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I wanted to go the top of my favorite wind-swept faerie hill top (due north of Round Top at the place marked 27 on the map), but a couple headed up there as I approached. As this was Beltane I didn't want to disturb them, and so stopped at a boulder for a bit. I saw them coming down the trail a few mintues latter, and so I climbed back up only to find a nother couple already watching the light fall on Mt Diablo. I quietly walked away, disappointed that I would not be able to watch the sunset from my favorite spot.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Well, I did try a new path at one point but I didn't get lost.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Cafeine does not mix well with trance work at all. I did have a rich Cabernet and some Nibisco Chocolate Chunk Cookies and listened to my teacher's album for the first time in years when I got home.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
I'd say a 9. The ritual was certainly ecstatic as they tend to be in this Trad, and the place is certainly convenient to my home. But I do like more formal ritual and regular corporate worship.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. I like that I can experience a deeply Pagan relationship to the amazing wild and fey places hidden even amidst civilization, but nothing about that negates my love of Christ.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The shear delight of finding all the marvelous items at the altar at the center of the labyrinth. It's truly wonderful to know that there are others like me connected through this amazing location.