Seven years ago this morning I was sitting in a very small room at a title company, talking to a lawyer and a realtor and waiting for an amazing moment, when the mother superior of the Hermanas Josefinas would hand me a tiny flowered box containing the keys to a building located at 664 Landau Avenue in Joliet, Illinois: their former convent and our future Tawy House Kemetic Orthodox Temple and Retreat Center.
Our purchase of Tawy House II, as it has come to be known (the first Tawy House was a temporary retreat center and shrine space, founded in Michigan at the location of my childhood home, and did not have a formal full-time temple space), was a major change in the history of our Kemetic Orthodox Faith.
We went from being a religion of people who came together now and then to worship our gods to a religion that had a full time international headquarters available to it. We went from rented or very small temporary spaces overnight to a 20-room, three-story building where we could not only hold rituals in a full-size temple but we could dedicate rooms to shrines, guest space for work-study and intensives, and offices for the Faith as it expanded. As it turned out we were also able to set aside three rooms for a personal residential space, and thus I was also invited to come live at Tawy House late in 2003, and have done so ever since.
Tawy House is a little like Rivendell, the "Last Homely House" in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. It is a place that is situated both within the world and without it. When you enter, everything outside seems to fade, and time stands still as you come into contact with the holy places of our faith. It is a place where anyone is welcome to come to worship our gods, to share in our fellowship, to tell stories around the large tables in the library or the dining room, or to rest in one of our guest rooms and recharge before heading back out into the busy, crazy world outside. Every morning when I greet the sun from the shrine I give thanks to the gods and goddesses that we were able to achieve this very special place for them, and everything about it. It is one incredible blessing.
Many things have happened at Tawy House over the last seven years. We have gone from renovations to celebrations, hosted seven Wep Ronpet (Kemetic New Year) Retreat ceremonies at the main shrine, provided dozens of intensive and teaching weekends, rites of passage including Namings, and even provided space for interfaith use including weddings and gatherings. We have come together to provide charity for others. We have seen people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds come through these doors. We've lived through seven seasons of Illinois weather (including power outages during Wep Ronpet!) and a doubling of the size of our faith's membership during that process. We established shrines and rituals for the gods in addition to the Truth and the Mother Temple - the Holy Family Shrine, the Sekhmet Healing Room, the Djehuty Library, the Yinepu shrine in our back yard, and most recently the addition of the Lady's Image to the front pedestal, replacing St. Joseph who stood guard for many years while the building was still a convent. (I'll write about the Lady separately, when it's daylight out and I can get some good photographs of Her new home...)
It is hard to express in words how beautiful, and wonderful, Tawy House is. Hethert requested a house from us in the spring of 2003, and in the autumn we were able to comply with Her request. It is a house of beauty and love. Seven years ago, we were dedicating our beautiful temple. Seven years before that, I was in Egypt dedicating myself, to the service of our gods as their Nisut. Seven years from now where will we be? I'll be curious to find out.