#GS2010 Day 4: Celebrating 300 years

We had a fantastic and wonderful celebration of our 300 years of continuing Anglican worship in Nova Scotia. I was so pleased to greet the bus with my parishioners from the Parish of Three Harbours and to have Elizabeth Abler from my parish as my server. I was one of 22 concelebrants with Bishop Sue. I greatly enjoyed feeling surrounded by the national church in our celebration, although in the physical space we surrounded them!

The service began with five historical vignettes of our history as a diocese. They were well written, funny, poignant and honest. I struggled with the first vignette, as did my husband who is an Acadien. The first service at Port Royal was to celebrate the conquering of the french by the English. That was how this celebration was introduced to me 5 years ago. When I pointed out the insensitivity of this, the phrase was subsequently dropped from the presentation.

So, the first thing we (and our aboriginal guests, I may add) saw was two soldiers joking about finding wood in this new land by stealing the ax from the local carpenter and then destroying his house. It was written in a spirit of comedy which I did not find particularly funny. The vignette ended with a story by one soldier about his father’s musket. It is not the musket that is important, but what you accomplish with it. Again, this was written in the spirit of looking forward to great accomplishments, and all I could think was, yeah, look at what was accomplished at the point of a musket.

Having said that, the most moving part of the service for me was the liturgical dance. About 21 people dressed in costumes representing wind, water, doves and fire. It was beautifully executed, and I am very proud of my friend Katherine Bourbonniere and her choreography.

As part of my saying goodbye, I was invited to be a concelebrant for this service. It was an honour to stand with some wonderful and supportive colleagues at the celebration. We have a good college of clergy. As we were lined up, we couldn’t all hear the hymn sing. Those closest to the doors started to sing and led the rest of us in singing in the hallway.

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.