We’ve finished lunch after four and a half hours of procession, worship, and speeches this morning at St. Sauveur Episcopal Church in Les Cayes. I was honored that Pere Colbert asked me to be among the 25 or so clergy concelebrating Eucharist – quite touching. We processed through the city streets, arriving at the church about 9 a.m. The day celebrated both the bishop’s blessing of the renovated building (which is beautiful and now has a balcony to accommodate the overflow crowds) and the 150th anniversary of the arrival of The Episcopal Church in southern Haiti.
As an event, the morning was tremendous. Along with the bishop and the gaggle of clergy were three choirs, liturgical dancers, a band, the local mayor, and more people than the building could hold. Folks were sitting on the stairs to the balcony and lingering at the doorways – for three hours of worship and another hour of speeches. Sweating through a borrowed alb, I nearly stayed completely conscious.
There was another presence in the room, one I was blessed to glimpse at the beginning of our worship. First, you have to know that the windows in Haitian buildings are open to the outside, so visitors from the animal kingdom are no great surprise. As we gathered around God’s altar, singing with joy and power, I saw something near the ceiling out of the corner of my eye. It was a white bird, flying from one side of the building to the other, then going out the window and on its way. Rationally, I know it was a pigeon; but in my memory, it will become a dove. I’ve had this sort of thing happen once before, at St. Andrew’s a few years ago, when a bird literally walked into the narthex one afternoon, flew around a bit, and finally flew back out the door it had first used. I saw that visit, years ago, as a sign that the Holy Spirit wasn’t content simply to be in the church. The Holy Spirit wants to lead us out of the church and into mission with the people around us. Well, here in Les Cayes, I think it happened again. The Spirit flew in, nodded approvingly, and flew on out. I think we’d be wise to follow.
The other animal visitors today were brought by parishioners. The accompanying videos show the World’s Best Offertory Ever. Two explanatory notes: The chickens eventually had to be removed because they started fighting at the foot of the altar (there’s a sermon in that); and the goat is alive (though tired, apparently). We know, intellectually, that the Offertory is intended to be our presentation of all of our life – “our selves, our souls and bodies,” as the Eucharistic Prayer says. Whatever we have, whoever we are, whatever we feel, whatever gifts we’ve received – all of that goes into the offering plate on Sunday morning. Well, it’s one thing to know that. It’s another thing to sacramentalize it, and that’s what the people of St. Sauveur did this morning in the World’s Best Offertory Ever.