Gave this Call 2 Worship a run at Urban Seed: church last night trying to make some connections with Ancestral Spirits/Halloween/All Saints Day and The Cloud of Witnesses (Hebrews 12)….no small task really and a bit wordy…but fun!…
All Saints/Souls Day 2005
We acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people have been custodians from time immemorial. We honour this history and commit ourselves to care for the land with them. May our worship and our service be work for reconciliation with people and with our God.
(We say together…)
Jesus, light of the world, we confess that you are here. Shine your light into the hidden places of our lives, and bring warmth to the cold places of our hearts. Amen.
(silence while a candle is lit)
Call to Worship
Image: Martyrs of the 20th Century, Sculptures from Westminster Abbey, London, including MLKing, Max Kolbe, D.Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero, Elizabeth of Russia etc.
Let us worship the Lord. Isaiah 42 proclaims
Sing to Yahweh a new song of praise
From the ends of the earth!
Let the sea roar and all that fills it,
The coastlands and all their inhabitants.
Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice.
Welcome to Urban Seed: church on Melbourne Cup Weekend. The race that stops a nation. Tonight we have come to stop for a different purpose. We follow a different calander. Tomorrow is of course Halloween or All Hallows eve. All Hallows or All Saints Day is traditionally celebrated on 1 November. Initiated in the eighth century by the Catholic Church as a day to commemorate all the “official” Saints or martyrs who didn’t already have a specific day of remembrance, it has become a day for celebrating all those followers of Jesus whose lives have inspired us. This day is a chance to remember those Christians who have gone before us and influenced our lives in some way and to reflect on the continued presence of Christ on earth through his followers.
All Souls Day on 2 November is in many ways an extension of All Saints Day, but with particular emphasis on remembering those who have died. It fell out of Reformed church practice for a while, due to objections to the Catholic practice of praying for the dead so that they might be released from Purgatory, but the modern Anglican calendar has re-established it. Odilo, the abbot of Cluny monastery, inaugurated All Souls in 998 as a day to remember “all the dead who have existed from the beginning of the world to the end of time.” It is a time also to reflect on the hope that is part of the Christian faith that of life beyond this life.
Tonight we want to acknowledge those that have influenced us and have gone before……
Our opening ritual acknowledges the traditional owners of the land upon which we worship. David Tacey suggests that the cultural ‘mixing’ of Aboriginal spirituality and Christian revelation will give rise to an embodied religious sense, and an awareness of the sanctity and sacramentality of nature. This is not a pagan but a profoundly biblical idea. Our call to worship from Isaiah suggests that the oceans and lands are not inanimate matter but subjects with a voice that can worship the lord.
Some have suggested connections with this idea and that of ‘songlines’ that Aboriginal communities use as navigation stories for finding their way across the country. If we take these ideas of land seriously it can lead to what some have described as “reverse colonization”.
Carl Jung suggested that as we deepen our connection with place, the place slowly conquers us. “Man can be assimilated by a country.”
Some indigenous traditions also assert that one cannot conquer foreign soil, because in it there dwells strange ancestor-spirits who reincarnate themselves in the new-born.
American Indian Chief Sealth Suaqamish once said “At night, when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and deserted, they will throng with the host that once filled, and still love this land, the white man will never be alone.”
The idea of spirits haunting us invokes Halloween. The Celts believed that this magical time of seasonal transition opened up a connection to the dead. They believed that the world of the living was closest to the world of the dead at Samhain and at this time the spirits of the dead travelled among the living. The church objected to the fascination with the spirits of the dead and so began to characterise them as evil forces associated with the devil. That’s where a lot of today’s Halloween imagery comes from.
Whilst Christianity has no doctrine of reincarnation or ancestral spirits. Tacey suggests it is the power of this ‘spirit of place’, however described, that has caused many sensitive Australians to feel at ‘home’ in Aboriginal Australia.
He concludes that the best way for Aboriginal Australians to bring about a social revolution is not to shout “Europeans, go home”, but to cry “We are your soul”, then observe the changes. Ched Myers observes these changes in his own life. “The love in the land has summoned a love in me for it. This love was buried in my soul like the smallest of seeds, placed there by ancestors I never knew.” He concludes “I am convinced that beliefs of traditional cultures not only speak truth but they represent an ultimatum to Christians. Will we continue to ignore the songlines and to excommunicate the spirits of the land in which we dwell? Or can we learn to hear the songlines as essential verses in the earthsong of Gods praise and to see the spirits as part of the great “cloud of witnesses” spoken of in the New Testament book of Hebrews.”
As part of our worship tonight I invite you to think of a place, some land or country that is familiar, special, sacred to you, land that you love. During the service mix a finger in the soil mixed with ink and mark the Urban Seed:church cross constructed for us by Paul Toms below its horizon line symbol of land as a celebration of the songlines of Gods creation, the people that have recongised them and sung them through history and our desire to listen, learn and sing them today and for all time.
(Thanks to Mark Pierson for his All Saints/Souls info. from Fractals worship resource.)
I chose a song with connections to the land of my own ancestors from Cornwall with words by Perran Gay. I changed a few to work with the All Saints day vibe.
Gracious God, your love surrounds us,
Cove and headland, sea and sand
Sing the praises of your beauty,
Show the hallmark of your hand
Give us eyes to see your glory
Ear attentive, hearts aflame
Voices raised with natures anthem
To the worship of your name
God, in Christ your love surrounds us,
Balm in sadness, hope in pain,
Costly love that seeks and finds us,
Bears us gently home again.
Guide us on your pilgrim people,
Show us where the songlines lead.
May we know and live your message
Gospel word and gospel deed.
Spirit God, your power surrounds us,
Power of tempest, wind and wave,
Source of sainthood, artists vision,
Life that conquers sin and grave.
Weave us with your great communion,
Cloud of witnesses above.
Gather in the whole creation
To the banquet of your love.