The season of the church calendar after Pentecost is known as ordinary time not because it is dull and boring, but because it does not have a distinct theme such as the birth, death or resurrection of Christ. However the creative use of feasting and fasting throughout this season of the year provides wonderful opportunities for us to connect the everyday events of our lives and of our culture, to our faith in extraordinary ways.
One of the regular celebrations that the Mustard Seed Associates team hosts during this season is our annual Celtic prayer on Camano Island at the site where we are just beginning to see the establishment of the Mustard Seed Village. . This year it will be held the weekend of August 12 – 14, our retreat. It is our 20th celebration, an annual event that has helped us discern God’s vision for this site and move forward slowly into its fulfillment. God’s faithfulness over these years has amazed us and this year we are planning a special celebration to dedicate the establishment of this new community which is just beginning to emerge.
Our theme for this year is Jubilee and New Beginnings and working on the programme for this retreat will be one of my major responsibilities over the next month. Jubilee has always been a special celebration for me and today I wanted to share one of my favourite Jubilee stories which always comes to mind as I think of Jubilee. It harkens back to another Jubilee celebration in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth II celebrated the 50th year of her reign.
This Jubilee was celebrated throughout the British Commonwealth with jubilee parties, many of them street parties. Chris and Ali Lawrence and the members of the Round Chapel Neighbourhood Project situated in a poor and often violent community in London however decided to host an alternative Jubilee event – an event that harkened back to a far older understanding of Jubilee as expressed in Leviticus 25. They called it “reclaim the Jubilee”.
Outside the Round Chapel, Lower Clapton street was transformed from the media’s image of “murder mile” into a majestic setting filled with flowers, music, storytelling and food. Children, parents and elderly people gathered to play games, dance and eat from a wonderful multicultural banquet feast – a luxurious spread of meat and vegetables provided on a shoestring budget. Reggae, soul and Cajun music reverberated through the street and storytellers held the audience spellbound. At one point a moment’s silence was held to remember those who had died on this stretch of road in acts of violence linked to drug dealing. At the same time, people recommitted themselves to working together for a more peaceful and just neighborhood. The 400 dinner guests departed reluctantly at 10pm to the sounds of “Burn” (cow punk 1970’s revival) their heads filled with memories of laughter and multiple flavors, their eyes overdosed on images of color and their minds spinning with reflections on the true meaning of a strong community.
Ali Lawrence died of cancer a few years later but the seeds that were planted through the work she and Chris planted in this and the many other celebrations they hosted in Hackney provide a wonderful and enduring glimpse into God’s jubilee which we will celebrate in its fulness together with Ali and all those who have gone before us in that wonderful kingdom Jubilee feast in God’s kingdom.