Over the past five years diocesan communications has made an effort to visit parishes around the diocese in order to share with the diocese the experience of how different Anglican faith communities celebrate festivals and feast days. For Advent I, December 2, 2017, the Parish of St. Faith’s located in Vancouver’s southwest Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy neighbourhood agreed to a visit and shared with enthusiasm their 10am Advent liturgy entitled The Advent Garden.
The rector of St. Faith’s, the Reverend Dr. Richard Leggett is a skilled liturgist and St. Faith’s has a well-deserved reputation for offering engaging, prayerful and inclusive worship. Since 2016, St. Faith’s has also been home to the newest church plant in the Diocese of New Westminster, St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary and with ordained oversight from Assistant to the Rector, the Reverend Melanie Calabrigo, St Hildegard’s Sanctuary offers a worship atmosphere for the trauma-sensitive with a strong focus on art, creativity and beauty. In fact, the Anglican Foundation had sent Dr. Leggett a letter just two days before Advent I, congratulating him on the approval of a grant request he had put together with Rev. Calabrigo to proceed with a project titled “All are Welcome: Liturgical resources for trauma sensitive congregations.” The Anglican Foundation sent a cheque for $15,000 to be directed toward the project.
On the morning of Advent I, Dr. Leggett was out of town directing his attention to family matters in Colorado. Deacon, the Reverend Christine Wilson and Rev. Melanie Calabrigo provided the ordained leadership for the service. The Advent Garden is not a Eucharistic liturgy. The first Eucharist of Advent was celebrated at St. Faith’s at the 8am worship. In fact, The Advent Garden was developed by lay members of the parish, Katherine Cotton, ODNW and Heather Hamilton who had been inspired by a version of the liturgy that they had experienced at a workshop for those who work in children’s ministry and Christian formation for young people.
The central worship component of The Advent Garden takes place at the beginning of the service. Because the liturgy requires a large open space and the ability to eliminate light from the room, The Advent Garden took place in the parish hall. Two dozen+ chairs had been placed in a circle around a labyrinth made of cedar boughs. In the centre of the labyrinth was a large candle, the first candle of Advent. A table located in the circle of chairs was covered with tea lights in small candle-holders. At just after 10am with all of the seats occupied (some with more than one as a number of parents held small children on their laps) the artificial light sources were extinguished and Rev. Wilson welcomed the congregation and then read Genesis 1: 1-3. The large candle located in the middle of the labyrinth was lit and Rev. Wilson continued, reading Genesis 1: 4-5. Then Rev. Calabrigo began the service with a responsive of prayer of Thanksgiving for the Light:
Arise, shine, our light is coming;
the glory of the Lord is rising upon us.
Though the night still covers the earth
and darkness covers the nations,
over us with the Lord arise,
over us will the glory of God appear.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Following the prayer recorded music was played, and Katherine with assistance from others invited all those present to light their own candles in turn and bring light into the space as they walked the labyrinth. It was wonderful to see the younger members of the community participating with quiet enthusiasm under the watchful eyes of their guardians. The walking and placing of lit candles took about 30 minutes and after everyone who wanted to participate had participated the centre of the room glowed in the collective light of approximately 30 candles.
The service then continued with the more traditional Advent practice of singing the first 3 verses of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," followed by a reading from the Old Testament, Isaiah 64: 1-9, the Gospel for the day, Mark 13: 24-37, Intercessions, the Offertory, Prayer over the Gifts, the Lord’s Prayer, an Exchange of the Peace of Christ, the Closing Hymn, "How Long" and Dismissal. After the liturgy the young members of the parish had a great time blowing out the candles.
Many thanks to the lay leadership, ordained leadership and members of the St. Faith’s community for their warm welcome and for sharing their Advent I liturgy with the diocese.
Also, all are invited to attend The Longest Night - A Blue Christmas liturgy at St. Faith's/St. Hildegard's, December 21, 7pm.