Tuesday, March 25, 2008

beyond the easter bunny.

more than one person has said they hoped i would convey a bit about easter in grenada. so here's a bit about my recent experiences. from my "grenadian" perspective...

holy thursday. found a spot in the pew beside miss daphne. one of those sweet hat wearing church ladies who shares her prayer book with me. readings of passover. and footwashing. twelve men were invited to the front to have their feet washed by the priest. a reenactment of jesus profound example of servanthood at the passover meal with his disciples. and i've never connected maundy thursday service with footwashing before. only communion. so i appreciated the combination. i was wondering the whole time if the twelve were going to wash the congregation's feet. since jesus did command his disciples to continue to serve each other. but no one else's feet were washed. which is ok. maybe it would have taken too long. or made people uncomfortable. (church should never make people uncomfortable, should it?) the ceremony was nice. but i longed to participate too. same with communion. still not sure if i'm really allowed to receive the eucharist. since i'm not catholic. since i can't seem to grasp the literal transformation of the elements into jesus. so i didn't participate in communion either. and the service was nice. and i could join in the songs and the readings and the prayers. but somehow felt limited in full worship. and how often in life is our worship limited. through circumstances, distractions, reluctance.

good friday. an early service with the tiny methodist crowd. simple. didn't change my life. but a reminder of the cross. of the death that is necessary for resurrection to follow. literally hopped out of the car into the procession through the stations of the cross with the catholic church. walked and sang and prayed alongside of folks all the way from grand roy to concord. half the time i couldn't hear the readings. but i appreciated the songs. the time for reflection. the time to simply follow the way of the cross. alongside of jesus. alongside of people. it very much resembled a typical funeral procession in grenada. everyone in their black and white. mournful hymns sung. and it was my prayer that i might come to understand what it truly means to follow the way of the cross. to share in christ's life. suffering. death. but also in the hope of resurrection. that it isn't just a ceremony. but a way of life. once we got to concord, we took a water break. and then had good friday mass. there was a interesting crucifix painted at the front. another white jesus. and i wished he was painted black. or at least somewhere in between. scripture. and song. and sermon. and communion. there was also an additional ceremony. a wooden crucifix was held up by the acolytes. and the congregation was invited to come to the front, bow before the dying jesus. and even kiss it if so led. i didn't feel so led. so i watched. observed. participated through prayer.

back i grand roy, cooked what i had been told is the traditional grenadian good friday meal: salt mackeral and provision. my friend kimo came over to help. the meal would have turned out a lot more awkward had i attempted it myself. we boiled the salt mackeral, which had been soaking since the night before. tore it up, removed the bones as best we could, then cooked it with cabbage, carrots, peppers, onions, and oil. also boiled sweet potatoes. plantains. dasheen. and yam. for the side. actually turned out nice. and looked presentable enough for me to confidently share a sampling with the neighbors.

kids flying kites around the neighborhood. homemade kites from reeds and plastic and thread. trying their best to catch the easter breeze. reminding me of God's spirit. moving us. guiding us. giving us meaning. and direction. and purpose. without whom we are merely reeds and plastic and thread.

visted with chester up the street. chester amazes me. he has a recording business for local musicians. a profound understanding of technology and music. plays bob marley on an out of tune guitar. and quotes scripture like a biblical scholar. has been in a wheelchair since he was a teenager. but transcends the limits life has given him. somehow conversation with him always ends up being spiritual. always makes me think about God and scripture and things in a different way. and i cherish those visits. where words have depth. and meaning.

holy saturday. a typical long walk through the neighborhood. taking my time to visit folks along the way. washed and rinsed my clothes in the river. embracing moments of solitude. where the only sounds are the running of the river. and the old timey hymns that spill out of my mouth. enjoying the people that pass by. dwayne volunteering to help me wash my socks. glenda and kedra bathing as mother and daughter. olin washing xorian's ridiculously long hair. neighborhood boys playing and splashing when they're supposed to be bathing. a perfect people watching spot. and washing and rinsing takes me so long. that even with shade and sunscreen, i managed to get my back terribly sunburned. then had chances to read. and catch the sunset. and learn how to make sweet potato pudding with glenda.

easter sunday. gathered wildflowers on my morning walk to bring to church. thinking about sunrise services and church breakfasts and easter traditions back home. got ready and went down the street for mass. sat by stephon from my after school class. he shared some of his flowers with me when he saw how mine were slightly mashed and wilted. one of my favorite parts of the service was when everyone brought their flowers forward and placed them in five gallon buckets at the front of the church. a beautiful, colorful, diverse arrangement. and it didn't matter how simple or elaborate your flowers were. the point was the beauty they held when placed altogether. and father martin talked about the beauty that each person inherently holds. and the added beauty when we come together in community. and there were songs of praise. and resurrection. we even sang "up from the grave he arose" during the passing of the peace. complete with tambourine and bongos. and we sang "i am the resurrection and the life," a song that brings back memories of early church back home and how our minister sydnor could never get us to clap on beat... just at stephon shared his flowers, he shared his candle with me during the renewal of baptism. beyond that he shared his joy. and love. as he naturally does.

got to talk with the fam on the phone. and help glenda with the last preparations for easter lunch. she let me eat with them so i had a family to eat with on easter. they made numerous dishes. macaroni pie. potato salad. cabbage and carrot salad. baked chicken wings. stewed pumpkin. provision. it was different though. meals are shared. but not around a common table. people come and go. eat when they feel like it. so i was surrounded by people, but it was different than everyone eating together at once. i had just enough time to eat before i had to head up the hill to meet the pan truck. we got everything loaded up and headed to tanteen, past town, for an easter concert alongside other steel bands. it was fun to play again. a treat to listen to other groups. certainly a unique easter evening.

easter monday. another neighborhood walk. lots of folks around. kids out of school people out of work. a group cooking oil down in a huge pot up in mon plasir. love the idea of people coming together to cook as a community. the oil down was actually for harvest later. spent a little time with miss hilda. who seems quite neglected. even by family that lives next door.

got to have a nice easter chat with grandma and grandpa. who seem to be doing better and better, praise God. grandma talks about the spring flowers. and the beauty of rebirth that they remind her of.

back at home, decided some easter cleaning was in store. so i started sweeping and dusting and mopping and straightening as the neighbor's radio blared across the street. the cleaning process always seems to entail more than initially anticipated. one cleaning project leads to another. until i start cleaning, i don't realize how truly dirty the whole place is. and if i don't clean as i go, the cleaning duties build up. and i thought about our souls being cleansed. and how things can build up. and how when we start to look within ourselves, we come to realize there's more and more cleaning to be done. and it made me thankful for a God than does cleanse us thoroughly. cobwebs and dust and dirt and all.

eventually made it to harvest. a celebration the day after easter sponsored annually by the catholic church. lots of local food. and treats. games for the kids. music. fellowship. enjoyed the oil down i had observed being prepared up the road this morning. walked around. visited the haunted house. talked with folks. played pan. a joyful experience to play for people from my own community. and to see the people dancing and smiling and enjoying themselves. stuck around a little while. tried to be a part of things. even when the dj music and dancing later weren't exactly my style.

(oh, and one easter tradition that i didn't experience was time on the beach. this year the waves were strangely rough. so no one really spent time in the sea)

and i love the way my little book of common prayer, we've entered into the first of many weeks of easter. that it isn't just a day. but a season. to live in hope. in joy. as a resurrected people. serving a resurrected Lord. and i pray its more than a season. but a way of life. that yes we die with Christ. but more importantly, we live.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


palm sunday brings about memories of children's choirs singing "hosanna, hosanna, hosanna to the king." palm branches waving. easter cantatas. afternoon easter egg hunts in the front yard of the parsonage. makes me think of last palm sunday. a simple worship service in alma matthews house in greenwich village. alongside some profound future mission interns during interview weekend. where we talked about jesus weeping amidst the praises. because people failed to recognize the things that make for peace. and i had no idea where in the world i would be the next palm sunday.

and all these recollections ran through my mind. as i experienced palm sunday grenada style.

went to the little methodist church in gouyave early. sister christopher brought three simple palms she had borrowed from the catholics in her neighborhood. and she laid them on the prayer altar. later on went to catholic mass back in grand roy. everyone had palm branches. which were blessed with holy water. before we processed around the church. inside, palm branches carpeted the floor. and decorated the pews. and hosannas were sung.

in both services it was palm sunday and passion sunday. so we recognized the triumphant entry of jesus on his humble borrowed donkey. as well as the arrest and trial and cruxifiction. and it was interesting to reflect on such contrasting events within the same worship service. praises and accusations. hosannas and condemnations. the beauty of worship. in juxtaposition with the reality of jesus' suffering. how its just as easy to offer praises as it is to deny jesus. alongside a crowd.

and i long to offer perpetual hosannas. not only with my lips but with my life. but i fail everyday at getting it right. and i'm thankful for the grace of each new day to try again.

and ever since those palm sunday services. i've noticed that there's an abundance of palms all over grenada. everywhere you look, you can't help but set your eyes upon a coconut tree. a fig (banana) tree. or another random plant with palm leaves. and as the trees blow in the easter breeze, they remind me of nature offering its own praises. waving its own palm branches. even if we are silent. even if we fail to honor the holiness around us. the trees are shouting out. and when we realize this, how beautiful it is to sing hosannas. in union with all of creation. in honor of our beautiful Creator.