Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 4 December 2012.Phone: 816-931-9900
MissionMembers of the Gaia Community "gather to honor the inherent sacredness of Nature in a family-supportive environment where diversity of belief and lifestyle is respected. We care for the Earth and each other because our lives depend on it." For more on their mission, visit this webpage.
HistoryThe Gaia Community started as a vision of Kitty Degler. Degler wanted to form a congregation where pagans would gather together weekly for rituals, host different children’s programs, and explore different pagan ideas (Gaia). In May 1997 she found a minister: Vicky Combs. In 1997, at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers in Kansas City, the Community had its first meeting (“Program”). Early in its existence, members applied for and received a start-up grant from the Prairie Star District of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The next focus was finding money to build a church. From 1997 to 2002, the Community met at All Souls Unitarian Universal Church in Kansas City, Missouri. On July 1, 2002, the Community moved to the current location, Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church. The Unitarian Universalists meet in the morning, and the Gaia Community meets in the afternoon and evening. The Community is not a Unitarian Universalist congregation but is associated with and supported by the UUA. Vicki Combs left the congregation in July 2001, and currently the church does not have a minister. Instead, a ritual team prepares the weekly rituals.
DemographicsPrimarily Caucasian and English speaking, the members of Gaia include children, college students, and adults.
DescriptionShawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church is a large ranch-style building. The basement includes classrooms and a nursery. Upstairs (the main level) is the worship hall. Outside there is a playground for the children. The facility's uses are worship, ritual, meetings, and learning. The group's ritual structure generally focuses on some core components which can look different every week. It is always designed to be experiential and participatory, however, and will usually involve some sort of grounding and purification of the participants near the beginning (methods vary; sage, water, and visualization are a few), as well as a delineation of sacred space (sometimes, but not always, "casting a circle"). Elemental powers and deities appropriate to the work of the day are summoned or invited to attend, and then the work itself begins. This is the part that varies most dramatically; some rituals are meditative, some are extremely active, some are intergenerational, some are outdoors, some involve trances. There is often singing or dancing, but not every time. Non-ritual services may be workshops or classes, or discussion forums on topics of interest to the group. The group also takes an offering to help meet its expenses, and also conducts fundraisers throughout the year. The Community uses the basement of the church for KidSpace, a place to entertain and educate children during rituals. For more information about the group's activities, visit their site.
Rituals and ActivitiesGaia Community members celebrate earth-based, pagan religions, such as the Druid and Wiccan traditions. They embrace a variety of pagan rituals in order to have a diverse community. Some of the ritual songs are in Elvish, the language invented by J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. Elvish helps members reach a spiritual center during their rituals.
The elements of ritual are preparation of self, creation of sacred space, invocation of elements and deity, ritual and intention, offering, releasing elements and deity, and opening the circle. Although other aspects of rituals may change, these elements are continued week to week. To insure that participants remain engaged and are not just reading words, there is no written program. Ritual occurs every Sunday. Once every seven to eight weeks the Community observes one of the high holy days (Imbolc, Beltane, Samhain, Lughnassadh, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox, Winter Solstice). All of the high days relate to the seasons, nature, and gods and goddesses.
Occasionally instead of ritual the Community holds an open forum or a workshop. Evening classes include pagan parenting or instruction about the high holy days. For other activities, visit the website, www.gaiacommunity.org. Gaia’s Activities are open to the public.
Distinguishing Features of this CommunitySome members participate in rituals or services of other traditions in the morning and then meet with Gaia in the evening. In addition, Gaia unites practitioners of different pagan traditions under the same principle: the elements of the earth are important to everyday life and well-being. Another characteristic of the Gaia ritual is that it is energy-based. Members join to create a powerful energy. For instance, members place on the table jewelry that they want to be charged with the energy created during ritual. The Community favors preserving the environment, as their mission statement shows: "Caring for the Earth and each other because our lives depend on it." The Community supports the Green Sanctuary Pledge of the Unitarian Universalist Association. One way in which the Community lives out the pledge is by having reusable dinnerware for the pot luck dinners.