One of my difficulties with the liturgical format I grew up with is that it constricted the agency of the majority of the participants. When during college I came across liturgy that honored the agency of all gathered while maintaining a coherent, holistic narrative ritual, my vision of what religion could be and the shape of my own faith changed. I went on to study liturgy for that reason, at both the Master's and Ph.D. levels. After moving from Cleveland, however, liturgical and religious agency was hard to come by in the same way. I recognized along the way that I was called to priesthood (which ultimately required me to turn from my religious upbringing, a tradition that claimed women could not legitimately be priests/ministers), but even after that departure (or perhaps because of it), my vision of priesthood wasn't the sort that would authorize me to make or enforce decisions on behalf of a community or to otherwise wrangle agency from others. Theanism, which was in its birthing my own act of radical religious agency, allowed for authority created to dwell not at the top of a hierarchy, but at the depths of diverse community.
In its new maturity, Thean liturgy creates intentional space for the creative agency of each one who takes part. It is not merely the fruit of my imagining as a Thean priestess. When it comes time for what would normally be the sermon/homily/drash, each participant is given sacred time and space to pursue the creative work of her deepest yearning. In her creative agency enacted, she becomes the great revelation of Thea.
There is time in this liturgy for what marks, to me, what is both familiar and holy--the lighting of candles, the breaking of bread, the sharing of the cup, the sounding of bells, the anointing with oil--but now the climax of Thean liturgy is the creative act that finds its origins in the deepest desires of each person. It is during this time that Thea feels most alive, in us, in myself, in one another. It is sacred communion, the night of bliss, the rosy-fingered dawn of awakening.
And as I watch my daughters continue their creative work, now hours after our new liturgy has concluded, I perceive the nod within myself that this liturgy is the holy, whole-making ritualizing I've been chasing since I left my liturgical home in Cleveland. This is the liturgy that reflects the religious agency I learned long ago from a community that lived that agency, and which was eventually excommunicated by the local hierarch for exercising that agency.
May my daughters and I ever practice and hold space for that agency in one another, and in practicing this learn to hold space for that agency in others.