Morning Prayer at Burning Man

IMG_4157At 10am every morning campers and guests would gather in our chapel for Morning Prayer and Bible Study.  It was a time for us to connect with one another and center ourselves before the adventures of the day, or perhaps after the adventures of the night. Prior to the Burn we created a Prayer Book with readings based on the 10 Principles and rites for Morning Prayer and our various Temple services. One of my favorite prayers was one we prayed daily in the morning. I use it now as part of my default world morning prayer.

Leader  Eternal Spirit who sees and loves those who often are unseen and unloved by others,
We lift up to you all those who may be carrying heavy loads; 
those who have brought their losses and emptiness to the playa;
those held down by addiction or threatened by violence;
those who suffer in mind and body; 
those who feel unloved and unwelcome.  

May they find in us your hospitality, with no agenda of our own  except to welcome and listen, offering a cool breeze on a hot day.  

You are the God who is simple, direct, clear with us and for us. You have committed yourself to us. You have said Yes to us in creation, Yes to us in our birth, Yes to us in our baptism, Yes to us in our awakening this day. But we are not like you. We say “perhaps, maybe, I can’t.”  *

People  In your mercy you call us again.  Today you called and we said Yes. Because we are like you: loving and creative. We claim our Yes today in this place:  hot, exposed, uncontrolled, and not of our own making. We claim our Yes because today we are committed to Jesus’ command to love you, love ourselves, and love our neighbors. We claim the weird, ordinary, and unmet parts of ourselves saying Yes to you today because we are religious as fuck,  we are your church, and we are not giving up. In your mercy and helping one another, hear our prayer: we say Yes. Amen. 

Isn't that a great prayer!  I love how it names the brokenness that people bring to the Playa and also reflects the open, agenda-free, healing hospitality offered by the playa that we want to embody in our camp. I also adore the, "because we are religious as fuck" line. Whenever we would get to that part of the prayer, there was always a laugh of surprise. Beneath the light shock of it was a proclamation: we are a people of love and hope, no matter what. And we aren't giving up. 

The Prayer Book  was created by Alex Leach, Patty Jenkins, Michelle Booth and Tom Gartin. This prayer was written by Patty. The paragraph with the * was inspired in part by the prayer "Yes" printed in Walter Brueggemann's Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth.

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My Burning Man Blessing

Burning Man is has a gifting economy. Everything is a gift, freely given. Camps offer experiences as free gifts, and people offer all kinds of things. For my first Burn in 2015 I created a blessing that I could offer strangers. I needed it to have integrity and reflect me, who I was as a priest on the Playa, but also be readily received by as many people as possible, inclduing those who had been wounded by toxic Christianity. Here it is:

 

The world now
is too dangerous
and too beautiful
for anything but love.

I bless your eyes be so blessed you see God in everyone.
I bless your ears, so you hear the cry of the poor.
I bless your lips so you speak nothing but the truth with love.
I bless your hands so that everything you give
   and everything you receive,
   is a sacrament,
I bless your feet so you run to those who need you.

And may your heart be so opened,
so set on fire
that your love,

YOUR LOVE,

changes . . .

everything.

 

It was amazing to be in an environment where I could go up to a stranger and ask, "can I bless you?" and they would expectantly say "yes." They of course never knew if it was something funny or deep - at Burning Man anything could be considered a "blessing." And I mean anything.  After getting consent to touch them, I would put my hands on their shoulders, look in their eyes, take a breath and say, "The world now . . ." After the opening line, their countenance would change. They would prepare themselves to receive something important. I would touch next to their eyes, ears, lips, and hands, then stoop down and kiss their feet. For the last line I would put my thumb on their sternum and press hard. It was always a moving exchange.

I did it a fair amount my first year, but not as much as I thought I would. Each exchange took more energy than I had anticipated. I needed time to reset. I also learned that there were times that were more appropriate, when people would be more open. Sunrise was good. Evening, when people were getting ready to party for the night, was not. 

 


Burning Man Sermons

After each Burn I get the opportunity to bring some of the Burning Man world alive for my congregation. Here are the sermons I preached after my first few Burns.

 

2015, the sermon that started it all.

I left the 2015 Burn early, on Saturday, so I could get back to church for Sunday. Which meant I prepared this sermon while riding back to Sacramento, dusty and dirty, on my motorcycle. I basically told stories of my experience. The sermon immediately went viral among burners because they now had something they could show their mothers that explained why they went. The popularity of the sermon made it possible for me to connect with other Episcopalians and to connect with the wider Burning Man community. (I'm embarrassed by the length of the sermon. Normally I preach for 15-20 minutes. But I had so much to say. And the people seemed to not mind. That set a pattern for all of my post Burning Man sermons.)

 

Welcome Home – A Reflection on Burning Man from Trinity Cathedral on Vimeo.

2016

In 2015 I left on Saturday, before the burning of the Man Saturday night and the burning of the Temple on Sunday night. This sermon reflects more deeply on the power of the Temple as well as our first Eucharist at Burning Man. I'm sorry this sermon is out of focus.

 

Return From Burning Man II, Sermon 9/11/16 from Trinity Cathedral on Vimeo.

 

2017

In year 3, I set up a prototype Camp Religious AF. It was a camp of one. This sermon tells the story of that fledgling attempt. It also has my favorite opening line for a sermon: "Do you use cannabis."

 

Religious AF, Sermon 9/10/17 from Trinity Cathedral on Vimeo.

2018

In the summer of 2018 I moved to L.A. and became the Interim Rector at St. Ambrose Church in Claremont. I hadn't yet dialed in the video recording equipment, so this is an audio sermon recorded on my phone. This sermon reflects on the first year of our camp, Religious As Fuck.

Audio Link:

Sermon 180923 post Burning Man

 


Holy Shit! All these people!: Religious AF's 1st Temple Eucharist (2019)

BDSM Safety - Basics of Kinky Play
Sparkling Disco Party
Building an Off Grid House
Starcraft Tournament
Lingerie Beer-Tea Party
Reiki Energy and Sound Healing

OR

LRM_20191115_114344

 

Above are just some of the activities listed for noon on Tuesday at Burning Man. We had four Temple services. Tuesday was our first. We were expecting 15 or so people to come to the service. With all that goes on, and the difficulty of communicating events and getting anywhere on time, 15 is a really good turnout. It was what we had the previous year - our first year as a camp.

2018 Tuesday temple eucharist
Opening Eucharist in 2018

 

 


IMG_2304This year we had over 70. We didn't plan for that many. The service was structured like a regular Sunday service with readings, sermon, prayers and communion. Except we added a time after the prayers for people to come forward for individual prayers and a blessing. That made sense when we were expecting 15 people and not all would come forward. But we had over 70. And they all came forward. And lingered. They wanted real prayer. Real blessing. No drive by platitudes. There were tears. And hugs.

It was terrible. While the Holy Spirit was all over it, I was an anxious mess. It was taking way too long. We were in the heat of the day with no seating, and this part of the service, which was supposed to be short was going on, and on, and on, and on. 

Nobody left. Nobody got their blessing and walked away. They all stayed. And were present to each other.

During this prayer/blessing time, we were singing a Taize chant. Over and over and over again. My sister, Michelle, who was helping to lead the chant realize we hadn't planned music to cover a long period of time. That's when Lauren appeared. She was a recently baptized, Episcopal, professional opera singer and virgin Burner who was thrilled to learn we were having the service.   She asked Michelle if she could join her, and then she stepped up. It was spectacular. Lauren became an active part of all of our services and would come to the chapel at our camp to practice and warm up for performances. 


When the blessing part was over, we went straight into the communion service.  At the transition to communion, everybody stayed. And after the Great Thanksgiving, people came up for communion and then stayed for the final blessing. 

Photo Aug 27  12 47 57 PMIt was a breathtaking start to a rich and full week of worship, prayer, blessing and conversation. And things just got better as the week progressed. 

 


And Then Suddenly . . .

"And Then Suddenly" is a great podcast that looks at turning-point events in people's lives. When Anglea asked to interview me, I wrestled with which event to speak about: Laura inviting me to Burning Man, Pilar Tumulo inviting me into the world of Buddhism and Yoga, my friendship with Maggie and Linda that led me to LGBTQ activism, or the truly most significant - my relationship with Andrea that began when we were 15. I decided to talk about my conversion to Christianity which was foundational for everything that followed. The interview flowed into the LGBTQ activism that followed my ordination.

https://andthensuddenlypodcast.com/portfolio/30-brian-baker-on-fighting-for-love/?fbclid=IwAR3PqnNymylyLbEgO4HFJhPojbTEIr7z36ef9_m33Kq0oQnmm1eRt_EVeU4


Resources for Daily Prayer

In May I partnered with Buddhist Brandy Davis and Yogi Liani Moore to lead a retreat on daily spiritual practice. For the retreat I compiled some of my favorite prayers. Here's the handout I created: