Dance transforms worship at Cosmic Mass held at Christ Church Cathedral

On the evening of July 7th Christ Church Cathedral’s seismic upgrades were put to the test as it shook to the beat of trance dance music, hosting one of the most exciting events to take place this summer in the Diocese of New Westminster.

Episcopal Church priest Matthew Fox celebrates at the Cosmic Mass, which he pioneered in California

Mathew Fox, contemporary theologian and founder of the University for Creation Centered Spirituality in Oakland, California, along with organizers Philip Murray, Youth Ministry Director at St. Mary’s Kerrisdale and Maureen Jack-Lacroix of Jack of Hearts Productions and a small army of DJs, VJs(video jockeys), sound technicians, dancers, artists, performers, and volunteers, created one of the most dynamic expressions of global spirituality going called “Earth Revival: a Cosmic Mass with Mathew Fox.”

With over 600 people attending, the cathedral was lovingly and beautifully transformed into an open space where participants were given permission to move out of their heads and get into their bodies through the rhythm and pulse of dance.

This liturgical innovation was initially inspired in Sheffield, England, by a visionary Anglican priest and a community of young people who combined the power of electronic dance music with Sunday liturgy to create a groundbreaking style of worship. This vision of fusing cutting edge dance music found in the rave culture along with audio visual images, with the depth and mystery of the catholic mass, was further developed by Mathew Fox into what has become known as “the Cosmic Mass”.

Fox’s deep conviction is the necessity to develop a new planetary cosmology: to help re-empower Christian ritual and recapture the imaginations of disaffected western youth turned off by uninspired worship.

By deconstructing cerebral forms of worship inherited from the past such as sitting in pews, being read to, preached at and being bound to books and leaflets, and reconstructing worship using visual images, electronic and live sound, drama, story telling and dance, a whole new level of energy, vibrancy and joy is created. The results are packed churches filled with turned on young people.

That was certainly the case at the cathedral. There were so many people who wanted to get in that they were lined up outside and many had to be turned away.

Part of the overflow crowd at Christ Church Cathedral on July 7 for the Cosmic Mass. (Philip Murray photos)

But it wasn’t just teens, twenties, and thirties who came out for this historic occasion. There were people in their seventies and eighties who were on their feet dancing and swaying to the music of Tribal Harmonics - a group of Spirit-driven DJs from the Sunshine Coast. One of the most moving aspects of this event was to see such a wide cross-section of ages and people come together, enter deeply into the experience, rub shoulders, dance and let go.

As one person remarked “It was the most amazing event I have ever attended.

To see little ole church ladies in their polyester pant suits rockin’ out to the music was very healing. I’ve been struggling with feelings of aloneness within my faith and to be surrounded by so many people who were all there to celebrate the divine helped me to feel reconnected.”

Through a process that follows the archetypal pattern laid out in Fox’s creation centered spirituality participants were encouraged to dance the rhythm’s of joy, grief, healing and transformation (Via Positiva, Via Negativa, Via Creativa and Via Transformativa).

The rituals theme was earth revival and revolved around four altars honouring the 4 sacred elements: earth, air, fire and water and the 4 cardinal directions of indigenous cultures with a central altar at the axis point. With Mathew Fox presiding at this central altar the gathered community celebrated a truly universal Eucharistic meal.

To give thanks for all the great spiritual teachers, prophets , saints and avatars within the human family was for many deeply healing.

The energy that it took to pull off this event was enormous, and much credit needs to go to the team of organizers and committed volunteers who made it possible but already there are plans in the wind to stage another Cosmic Mass.

When young people leave an event like this saying : “I’ve never had more fun in a church. I’ve never felt more connected to the divine and the divinity within humanity. I did feel ‘one’ with everything when I was there and I continue to carry that feeling today.” - then we know we’re on to something needs pursuing.

By Mark Lemon
Rector, St. Hilda’s, Sechelt

Asking & imagining what role you can play

Certainly one of my most memorable experiences, and one that had a huge impact on me, was my time at Ask & Imagine. 

It was a unique experience and one that taught me a lot about my life, the Church and the role youth can play in it, and working with others.

Some participants in the Ask & Imagine program at HuronCollege in London, Ontario, this summer.

Our first job was to come together as a community. Ten fairly anxious youth from Conception Bay South, Newfoundland to (you guessed it!) Coquitlam, B.C. made up the group. None of us had met any of the others until our arrival, but we were able to make solid friendships in an unbelievably short period of time. We quickly got to know one another through games, interviews and group exercises.

The program is tough to define. The words “summer camp” are usually avoided by both participants and leaders alike. Nor was it simply a series of sessions attended by youth. It was truly a unique combination of activities and university level lessons and discussions. 

I am told that no two years are completely alike, and I really believe it! The youth who formed the group played a role in structuring our time, and the leadership team was very flexible when an opportunity to better the program presented itself. The leaders were really great and very easy to get along with as well.

The program takes place in Ontario, splitting time between Huron College in London and a retreat at nearby Canterbury Hills. Ask & Imagine seems to have a lasting effect on all its The program takes place in Ontario, splitting time between Huron College in London and a retreat at nearby Canterbury Hills. Ask The program takes place in Ontario, splitting time between Huron College in London and a retreat at nearby Canterbury Hills. Ask & Imagine seems to have a lasting effect on all its The program takes place in Ontario, splitting time between Huron College in London and a retreat at nearby Canterbury Hills. Ask & Imagine seems to have a lasting effect on all its “alumni”. It is an intense time for growth and leadership development alike. I came back physically exhausted but mentally and spiritually more focused than ever. Definitely two awesome weeks that I’ll never forget!

Anyone with questions about A&I can visit their website or contact the author for more information.

Matthew Peron,
Youth Worker, St. Laurence, Coquitlam