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On Sunday, October 18 at 10:30am, parishioners of St. Margaret’s Cedar Cottage gathered on Zoom to participate in this year’s blessing of Hineni House, the intentional community hosted in the old rectory across the street.

In the season of coronatide, a lot of changes had to be made to the service. Normally St. Margaret’s would celebrate “Hineni Sunday,” which would culminate in the whole parish going to the house, walking from room to room blessing the space, and sharing coffee hour in the dining room.

Since this couldn’t be done, I (community director, Rev. Clare Morgan) decided to reach into the treasure box of the past for some help!

I knew that the Church of England had a rite known as “the beating of the bounds.” In the days before maps, it was important to keep the boundaries of a geographical parish within living memory, and so prominent citizens walked the boundaries of the parish to take note of marked boundary stones, which would then be hit with willow sticks. Modern surveying equipment has made the practice unnecessary, but the rite survives as a way to offer prayers of blessing to the area.

This seemed like the perfect solution to the challenge of how to offer our blessing to Hineni House!

I arrived at the church and picked up the stick that the Reverend Heidi Brear, Rector of St. Margaret’s had set aside: a branch which had fallen off of our nearby “prayer tree.” Parishioner [and parish treasurer] Doug Wood opened screen-share on Zoom so I could see the words of the rite, which I’d cobbled together from a few different sources, including previous house blessings, the Carmina Gadelica, and an Ascension Day liturgy from the website Facing the south side of the house, I sang “Welcome Here,” the Rachael Weasley penned song with which every Hineni House meeting opens, and then completed a clockwise circle around the house with prayers relevant to each room, giving the walls and fences good whacks with the branch.

Hineni residents, inside and following on Zoom, led the responses.

When I came back to the front door where I’d started, it opened and I could see the residents standing inside and looking out. Again, as customary, we sang Rev. Andrew Halladay’s “All Shall Be Well,” and I blessed them with my usual adapted blessing of St. Clare.

It was hard to see them in the doorway and know that I couldn’t go in and hug each of them, and share a meal together as we would normally do. Our current “Hinenites” have come together from many different places: BC, Mumbai, and Egypt, to be precise. All of them came seeking a closer relationship with the divine, whatever that may look like, which seems ever more important in strange and uncertain times as these.

I am so thankful that our ancient Anglican traditions had this beautiful rite which could be so perfectly adapted to the pandemic era.


Reverend Morgan Beating the Bounds