I Hope You Dance

2 Chronicles 5:2-14 (The Message)

All the priests there were consecrated, regardless of rank or assignment; and all the Levites who were musicians were there—Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their families, dressed in their worship robes; the choir and orchestra assembled on the east side of the Altar and were joined by 120 priests blowing trumpets. The choir and trumpets made one voice of praise and thanks to God—orchestra and choir in perfect harmony singing and playing praise to God:

Yes! God is good! His loyal love goes on forever!

Then a billowing cloud filled The Temple of God. The priests couldn’t even carry out their duties because of the cloud—the glory of God!—that filled The Temple of God.

I am starting this post as I am getting ready to dash out the door for my second to last Community Night with L’Arche Antigonish (will probably finish it when I get home). I am going to use this as our text for Eucharist, and talk about one of the many gifts that I think L’Arche brings to Antigonish: The call to dance and sing.

One of my best friends, Corrinne (Yuill) Boëker, used to work at L’Arche Cape Breton. When she heard I was moving to Antigonish, she told the L’Arche community that I was coming, and to be sure to reach out to me because I would be alone.

It’s funny, I don’t remember the very first time I met the community, but I know this: The folks of L’Arche Antigonish were my first friends here.  Two weeks after my arrival I was part of the gala for the Antigonish Highland Games. As I was walking onto Columbus field with the upper crust of tartan clad Antigonish society, I felt very lonely, because everyone in the line was waving to someone. I was next to our beloved Fr. Ray Huntley, and we often had to stop while he greeted people. I was the only one who didn’t know someone, and I cowered as I felt the occasional eye on me, “Who is that one?” “Is she new?”

Then, as we walked past the crowd, I started to hear, “Rev. Dawn! Rev. Dawn!” and there was Carol-Ann from L’Arche waving frantically at me. Then the whole community looked up and started calling to me, “Rev. Dawn! Rev. Dawn!” My loneliness was gone, and I felt so loved at that moment. Every time Carol-Ann sees me she shouts out the same salutation, “Rev. Dawn! Rev. Dawn!”, and I instantly know that I am unconditionally loved.

When I go to a community celebration, the L’Arche folks are usually there, and I know that when I feel like dancing, they are the folks to look for, because they will dance with me. We will dance together because we want to share our joy with one another and with everyone who is watching.

Over the past four years, I have had the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist with the folks of L’Arche. They welcome me to their bright, sunny chapel with hugs, kisses and stories. Their prayer always moves me to tears, because there are often tears. There is also great laughter and the immense joy of song. Like the priests in Solomon’s Temple, I am often so overwhelmed with their presence I can do nothing because of the cloud of God’s presence.

The people in Solomon’s Temple celebrated like that, with complete abandon. That is the openness of heart we are called to bring to our worship of God. God loves us with complete abandon, creating a world of beauty and wonder just because She is love. L’Arche reminds me to love with complete abandon, to dance, to sing and to be joyful, especially when others are watching.

Amazing Grace: accepting wretchedness

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now, am found, was blind, but now I see.

As I walk through my life as a daughter of God and priest, a hymn or song will often accompany me. Lately it is Amazing Grace.

It started with my first rehearsal with a local feminist choir. Imagine Raging Grannies but with less grey hair. 😉 We have fun, try to bring a little joy and awareness, and may also rewrite or add a verse or two to raise awareness to a particular justice issue. So, on my first night, the task was to re-write Amazing Grace.

Now, this hurt a little. I LOVE Amazing Grace, even with the wretch.  I think the story of John Newton is one of the greatest stories of our history, and in the words of a prof, all the greatest stories are stories of redemption.

We began with talking about the word, “grace”. We agreed that grace represented, for us, the love and sisterhood we have found in the communities of women in which we participate. We made the common change in the second line to “strengthened me” and removed the allusion to salvation.

To admit that we had once been lost, or required salvation, was a huge roadblock for many in the room. Being in a tradition that accepts the faults and weakness of humanity, I have no problem accepting that there are temptations I must avoid, and it is grace that helps me do that: the temptation to lie, or put someone down to build myself up, or ignore someone in need when it is inconvenient for me. Being a feminist does not make me free from those temptations. Walking along with other women and men who are working towards better relationship with one another and our world helps me find the grace to turn from my wretchedness.

In the end, they gave up, and John Newton and I shared a high five.

I also sing Amazing Grace at a lot of funerals. I remember a conversation in seminary when looking at the prayer of commendation in the Book of Alternative Services: Into your hands, O merciful Saviour, we commend your servant…Acknowledge, we pray, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him/her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

The conversation was about the lack of sensitivity of calling a person a sinner in this final moment of saying goodbye. What can a family think who are trying to say goodbye to their grandfather who taught them all to drive and told them stories and the priest is calling him a sinner?

The truth is, I’ve heard a lot of regrets in the death bed. Nothing criminal or Earth shattering…yet. I regret not spending more time with my spouse and kids, I regret drinking away my younger years and disappointing my parents. So when the funeral comes, and the family requests Amazing Grace, I keep the word “wretch” in, because the person who died usually does not want to be immortalized as a hero. The most they hope for is their faults to be forgiven. The final grace comes as we say goodbye not to the person we wish was our father/mother/sister/brother/friend, but who they really were, received into the arms of mercy of God, wretchedness and all.

Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

Brrrrrrrrrrrr……..

Hi everyone,

Sorry, it has been a while. We are now, finally, in a deep freeze here in Antigonish. I know we all love warmth and sunshine, but I need winter. I need winter to appreciate the summer. And when I don’t get a proper winter north of 42, I wonder how anyone can doubt climate change.

Part of the reason I haven’t been adding much here is because there has been little that I could or would add. Obviously, a lot of my work is confidential and most of what I can share is on my church’s blog (abch.blogspot.com). You can find my sermons and other happenings there. Other than that, the big challenge has been settling into a routine with dog, partner, family, parish and new town.

And what routine? Well, it is starting to form. I have joined the St. FX chorale and we had our concert on December 5. I am really enjoying being part of an accomplished choir again. I love the challenge of reading music by ear. Our next concert is in April with some beautiful music from the black gospel and celtic traditions with the theme of peace. The best part of chorale singing is knowing that no matter how much you screw up or your voice just stops at the final high G of the final movement of John Rutter’s Gloria (yep, it happened, kinda like getting within 2 ft. of the top of a climb, kinda anti-climactic), you are still part of making a beautiful sound.

I am also blessed to be in a town with an active L’Arche community (thanks Corrinne!). If you have never been to a L’Arche community, I would highly recommend visiting one or at least reading the writings of Jean Vanier about community (speaking of, I found that book you gave me for my ordination the other day, Corrinne. I will look at it next. Promise.) I had a great meatloaf dinner with my friends at Covenant House and got my pants beat off at Skip-Bo by Margie!

The ordination was glorious and I love priestly ministry. The hard stuff is really hard and the good stuff is really great. Being able to offer the eucharist to people from so many walks of life makes any frustrations from the week all better.

That’s enough for now. I think of you all often. Next time you are on your way to Cape Breton stop in for a pee break. D+