Friday, January 7, 2011

Christmas: A Time of Intense Religious Celebration

On the eighth day of Christmas, the octave of the Nativity, we celebrate the feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord. In the Cathedral of All Saints in Halifax, a service of Holy Eucharist was followed by a New Year's Levy, hosted by our Bishops: Sue and Ron.

St. George's Round Church held a service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday evening, January 2. John of course was playing the organ and the music was beautiful! Festivities continued in the hall with mouth-watering goodies, mulled cider, mulled wine and sherry; lusty carol-singing was accompanied by John's, oft-time jazzy, piano playing. The Eve of the Epiphany was celebrated with Choral Eucharist on Wednesday, January 5th, followed by another feast and parish community time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January 2, 2011 - Second Sunday after Christmas

The parish of Western Shore returns to its regular schedule of services; two are held each Sunday at 9:30 and 11:00, alternating between the churches. Today we were in St. Mary’s for 9:30 and St. John’s for 11:00; all services are Holy Communion.

I have felt immediately welcomed into the parish and Bonnie and I have been able to share some reflection and discussion time as we drive together between the churches. Her sermon today was a reflection on some key events of 2010 in the parish; this was a wonderful way for me to gain some insight into the life of the parish beyond the worship experience. This is a parish that engages in any undertaking with full commitment to doing an excellent job, whether it be building a foundation under St. Mary’s or launching a parish cookbook. They trust God in all they do and allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Feast of St, Stephen -- Solemn High Mass

The first Sunday after Christmas this year was concurrent with the Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr of the Christian church. St. George’s celebrated a solemn high mass using deep red vestments and paraments. Wonderful music was again integral to the worship.

Christmas Day - Solemn High Mass and Sung Evensong

Christmas Day was quite a contrast at St. George’s Round Church in Halifax. This worshipping community uses the BCP exclusively and Christmas morning was celebrated with a solemn high mass. We returned in the evening for a sung evensong.

The four churches in Western Shore each have their own worship style and individual celebration of the mystery. St. George’s is completely different with its high church mystical ritual. Music is central at St. George’s and while they included a string quartet in their Christmas Eve midnight mass, the band from St. Mark’s would be out of place, as would the screen and projector! 

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve - what a great time of the church year to meet people!

It was 4:00pm on a windy Friday afternoon, December 24th 2010; St. Mark’s was bursting at the seams, there was standing room only for the families who poured through the door as the children’s service was about to begin. Chaos, crowds, people, stuffed animals, no room, people being called up to the chancel to find space – it had a feeling of Bethlehem as people congregated for the census. The band struck a chord with Little Drummer Boy; Bonnie held the crowd and led us all in the interactive telling of the Christmas story. Somehow, 250 people shared Holy Communion and all the children found their way to the front of the church to take up percussion instruments for the final hymn. Jesus’ birth was celebrated in Martin’s Point.

The family service in St. John’s at 7:00pm was rather more ordered with fewer congregants (I rather think most people had come out to the earlier service with the beasts!) yet it had its own magical quality as we welcomed Jesus into our world again.

Candle-lit services were held at 9:00pm in St. Mary’s and 11:00pm in St. Martin’s. The little church in Gold River was packed to the gunwales for the first Christmas in the newly renovated church. I walked into St. Martin’s as the organist was exhorting us to “Go Tell it on the Mountain” singing lustily with all his might.

I have been assigned to the parish of St. Martin’s Western Shore for my supervised field placement. There are four churches in the parish: St. Martin’s in Martin’s River, St. Mark’s in Martin’s Point, St. Mary’s in Gold River and St. John’s in Chester Basin. The rector is Archdeacon Bonnie Baird; she has set up a resource team of four people, one from each congregation, to support and guide me through my time with them.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Advent 4 – A Time of Transition

As we prepared our hearts in love to say hello to Jesus, it was time for me to say goodbye to St. John’s in Lunenburg.

Transition and change are about endings and beginnings. When something ends, whether it be an event, an era or a phase in our life, something else presents itself to take its place, or its space. The change may be seen by all to be progress, a moving forward, yet there is still a sense of leaving something behind. To move on fully, one must feel complete and at ease about the ending.

Advent 4 was my completion as I said good bye and thank you to both the congregations at St. John’s. I was able to express my gratitude for their support as they raised me up and commended me to the discernment process. In my final words I shared that St. John’s was the first parish where I felt truly befriended and helped to feel at home as an integral part of the congregation and parish life. Reflecting on this afterwards I thought of all the other places that had welcomed me, especially the parish where my son Martin was Baptised, and I realised that one of the key differences at St. John’s was that I was ready and willing to be welcomed!

So thank you Michael, the wardens and all the parish of St. John’s for being there for me when I was ready be brought fully into the body of Christ. Thank you for all the Baptisms that I attended with you and was able to renew by Baptismal vows.

God Bless. Helen