Monday, September 30, 2013

The last day of summer

I love to make people happy.

I think we did it.

With the hard work of a few good friends at George Street Church, and the contributions of everyone who came, we threw a party on the last day of summer. The excuse was to celebrate the wedding of Lynn and I. The reason behind the party, behind the wedding, was because we love to make people happy.

A wedding is always a big draw for people. A milestone. A chance to mark the distance come. A wedding is an inukshuk – a marker - to look back on from the distance travelled.

We projected wedding photos on the screen in the George Street auditorium. Shots of our ceremony: our families, the rope we tied the knot with, the rings, the songs, the kiss, the cake, the cairn of stones. The cairn was created by the blessings of each person in that wedding circle. It stands at the centre of the labyrinth between the cabin and the falls.

When you come to the cabin, bring a stone to add.

But not everyone gets to Kinmount. Not every pilgrim makes it to Mecca either.

So we brought the party to you. Sunday morning United churchgoers know the song “Draw the Circle wide. Draw it wider still.” So we walked the talk. Or, danced out the song, I suppose.

Bazza arrived at the church around 6pm to find Leona and Mary and Ina and Kevin and A.J. setting up the wine and beer bar and potluck tables. We put out a flower pot for donations to our new “Seeds of Change” community centre just planted this summer at the church.

We all pitched in and hauled Bazza’s collection of hand drums, shakers, sticks and blocks and bells, rattles and cymbals – enough for everyone – and more. We streamed them all down the narrow back stairs onto a carpet – a cornucopia of rhythm – waiting for the magic.

By 7pm as people trickled in, a drum circle was going strong. Lynn and I were busy running from the pile of instruments to the newcomers, putting rattles and shakers and tambourines into their hands. Friends told me they could hear the drumming pouring out the church windows onto the street as they approached the party.

Bazza was in fine form, cooking up his magic of music-making, turning dis-believers into amateur musicians – amoré – to drum together is to be caught up in the string of beautiful moments of making, making, making LOVE! (with our clothes on) (but like sex – you need to experience it to understand).

Full participation in a mission is what every pastor dreams of. Bazza makes it happen. The mission?  Feel the music / make the music / enjoy this moment fully / we’re all in it together!

I was high as a kite already. I remember crossing paths with Mary Gordon and we were both just laughing too hard to talk, tears of delight in our eyes. The smiles on every drummer’s face. The laughter. The surprises of who showed up– who was able to make it – people from every corner of our lives. Friends we made last week. Friends made in every decade I’ve walked this planet were there. Scarbro, Riverdale, Bobcaygeon-Haliburton, Peterborough.

Shirley Cook and daughter Dianne from Cliffcrest United church days came to celebrate with us. They knew me as a little trouble-maker in short pants and watched me grow into a full fledged juvenile delinquent. Cliffcrest has closed but our connection and conversations about what really matters continues.

High-school buddies who were there for my first wedding, were there to raise a glass for this new adventure in romance. Still there. Still standing.

Helen and Harold Campbell brought their RV – making a road trip out from our shared memories of the Riverdale Economic Ministry. They never missed a party we threw in the nineties – and they weren’t going to miss this one.

It was kind of like being at my own funeral. An Irish wake that is. My past flashing before my eyes while the glory of this new wonder-filled adventure opens up before the two of us. The two of us caught up in this wave of love’s eternal joys experienced taste by taste and shared… a confluence of the streams that have fed and flowed to carry me/us into this journey coming together. The love, the good wishes, the blessings, the hopes tumbling like the rush of waterfalls into this pool that is George Street on this last day of summer.

+++ (you can finish here if you're short of time – its another 1,000 words to go) +++

Was it just me? Was it just us that experienced the ecstacy? “Come feel the love” was our invitation. Several people commented on the poem Lynn and I delivered. We’d each written poems about the wedding and then “married” them. They said things like “we felt like we were there” and “you two were glowing – you’re a beacon of love for us all.”

I was so happy that so many folks from the George Street congregation were able to be there. They’ve welcomed and supported Lynn and I in our work with them. Coming to them as a couple of passionate sinners, they asked no questions (well – not too many) and just loved us while we loved them. To have them share in this coming together of the community that the spirit weaves, and disentangles, and weaves again over time was just another way of opening up my life and my heart to them. We pray together. We cry together. We walk and wonder together. Let’s party together too! And so we did.   

I The Mountain opened up the performance portion of the evening. Matt, Matt and Matt, who we’ve come to know and love as a house band. Since they wandered into a community BBQ for a free burger and got roped into playing, they’ve been at every party we’ve thrown.

From Bobcaygeon days, Tony and John and Lorraine gave us their songs. These big hearted musicians invited me years ago to jam along with them – vicariously posing as a band member.  Their version of the Canticle of the Turning with its line “and the world is about to turn” lifted the Spirit into motion among us. We couldn’t help swaying and clapping to that energy drawing us in and on.  

Our musicians were struggling to be heard above the racket of people chatting and eating and having a good time connecting. Michael Bennet was up next. Solo on guitar. He sang a couple of songs – that I know and love - that were lost to all but the angels listening. But with the heart of a veteran performer he kept at it – pouring his songs out cause that’s why he’s on this planet. And then it happened.

A friend from Danforth Baptist church – where I’d first met Michael – arrived with big hugs just as Bazza drew up a chair and a drum beside Mike. And something shifted. The tune caught fire. The crowd turned their attention to the music. And soon the hall was full of dancing and singing as we all chanted “Let’s not fall in love”.

(which is hilarious given the context. But you have to know all the lyrics to know it’s a song about not picking the flower that love is)

More poems. Gabby, our new Seeds of Change friend, inspired the dancers in the crowd, with her Salsa moves. We couldn’t wait to hit the floor. But the dance band was just arriving from another gig. There was a lull. And Mary, our emcee, got inspired. “Hey Bazza – Let’s Drum!” she called and – drum evangelist that he is – he jumped into action.

The drums were pulled from the corner and before you knew it, another raucous round of drumming kept our blood pumping and rose the level of our love-riot to full pitch again.

It was getting late. People had to go. Miles to travel. Church in the morning. (I counted nine clergy in attendance plus a few worship leaders) Lynn’s counted 103 who were there. This awesome intersection of good folks from so near and far began to head off for all points on the compass.

And then, like summer’s one last bright gift, the band plugged in. Steve Lynch and his Stage Café buddies – who monthly offer the George St. stage up for yet undiscovered teens to give it up for an audience with lights and amps and a sound man and all – put it out for the party-on crowd still there.

Leona, our church elder/youngster, had insisted that the bride and groom had to have “their first dance”. So while Steve and the boys lit into their rendition of the Eagle's "Peaceful Easy Feelin“, Lynn and I took to the floor. We noticed Leona busy with something over at the side. And then, out from the floor came a stream of smoke – dry ice – that poured out to fill the dance floor. We could hardly dance for laughing. Talk about cloud nine! We were enveloped in our own private heaven – the two of us dancing – rocking – (they play rock in heaven of course) laughing and loving this FUN FUN FUN!

The dance floor filled up and we danced and danced like we did in the seventies and eighties and nineties like nothing ever’s gonna change us or keep us from lifting a glass and kickin’ up our heels – enjoying the way that music moves our bodies to respond – free and easy and healthy FUN, healing FUN, loving-it FUN.

I think the band was loving the fact that this church basement was rocking. That their holy of holies was being enjoyed by these late night worshippers at the altar of love. On a Sunday morning, you can hear the organ lifting songs to heaven. That Saturday night, we wondered if the police might show to find out who’s trying to raise the dead?

By midnight the last of us were trying to unload all the potluck leftovers into the hands of the few lovers left. Body, mind, and spirit fed to overflowing and emptied out in hugs to the departing. When will we be together again? When will we all enjoy such a time? A taste of heaven. A glimpse. Enough to keep me weaving with the Spirit whoever and whatever comes our way.                  

The memories are a cairn. A place and time to look back on for years to come.

We’ve decided to get married again next year.

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