A handful of parishioners from the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills took the time to welcome spring and remember their ancestors on Sunday morning during a worship service that celebrated the vernal equinox.
Spring blessings were abundant for parishioners who gave thanks to nature as they planted seeds in the garden outside the church. Members raked leaves, trimmed branches and watered plants and vegetation.
After they finished the garden maintenance, parishioners made their way into the church where a table filled with an assortment of food awaited at the altar. A willow tree in a pot stood next to the table.
“We are going to be feeding and communing with our ancestors,” Elizabeth Erickson, lay leader, said.
Sunday’s worship service was in honor of the Chumash and Gabrielino Indians who inhabited the area thousands of years ago, Erickson said. During the spring seasons, they ate native foods, such as red-ripe tomatoes.
A platter of tomatoes, oranges, bread and olive oil lay on the table for parishioners to sample at the end of the service.
“People who lived in this valley ate these foods, so we partake in what they had,” Erickson said.
The willow tree next to the table symbolized fertility, Erickson said, adding that the willow tree brings wildlife to it that feed on its fruit.
But food was just one of the highlights of the day’s festivities.
A large stone with Chumash petroglyphs stood in the center of the altar. The stone was there to symbolize the solar clock of the Native Americans.
During the service, children used a mirror to measure the vernal equinox, when the center of the sun can be observed directly above the Earth’s equator. They stood outside the church’s main entrance and held the mirror to reflect the sun’s rays. The rays reflected from the mirror and onto the stone.
On Sunday, attendees including Sunland resident Corey Stein came to be a part of the celebration.
Stein was grateful for her natural surroundings.
“During spring, it’s a time to feel the spirit in the plants and animals,” she said. “The spirit is in the animals, and to me, this is a big deal.”
Steve Devorkin of Tujunga and his 13-year-old daughter Amy also joined in on the gardening and worship service.
Amy separated weeds from the dirt, and Devorkin planted seeds in pots.
“I’m glad that it correlates with the whole pantheon of spring-related celebrations,” Devorkin said. “It’s about relating to Earth and relating to people.”