Monday, 26 October 2015

of being many voices, one choir. a weekend in Edinburgh.

This weekend has been full to overflowing, and I take this moment to express my gratitude.
Netherbow Theatre
Scottish Storytelling Centre
October 2015

Friday evening I attended the keynote opening talk of the 2015 International Storytelling Festival. Working with world leaders in the UN, World Bank, British Royal Family, and major faith (and non-faith) traditions, our speaker, Martin Palmer, has brought the wisdom of story into conversations about care for the environment, welcoming the refugee, peaceful relationships across cultures. The book he's just co-edited explores the phenomenon of every human tradition carrying within its sacred compositions stories of welcoming the stranger as encounter with the Divine. Many major faiths are at the forefront of various initiatives of welcome for refugees across the world, and have been in many times of crisis through history. This book celebrates these acts of welcome, and highlights this golden story thread woven throughout the human story in all its various shapes and textures.

I felt an affirmation and encouragement for the (in)humanity series I am developing and performing, stories of human fear and love, stories of reaching across borders with love. The stories I am telling help, I hope, to keep weaving and shining light on this golden thread of human fulness together, the sacred gift of offering welcome to the stranger, of respect for the dignity of a fellow human being.

Later on Friday, I was at the wedding ceilidh for friends who had celebrated their wedding in the USA earlier this month. Communities and families of these two celebrating love, that sacred gift, celebrating the life-giving gift this union is to these two, and in their families and communities. There was music and dancing, food and drink, children and conversation, and joy – so much joy.

Saturday morning I talked with a friend in Australia (thank you makers of Skype). For many of the people back home and I, we've found it a little haphazard, this keeping in touch across the seas. With the sister I shared a house with for the past 5 or so years, emails are like a continuation of the every day conversation, rarely a greeting, just straight on with the question or comment or response or story, and something almost every day. Dad established a routine of emailing me a sports update every week, sometimes with other news of friends, family, or theatre. There are skype chats with the whole family, and though the sisters aren't great fans of skype, my brother in law does like the opportunity to annoy Dad with my tattoo every now and then, and it does make me feel like I am there with them for a while. Skype chats with friends happen every now and then - we have hopes of making it a regular thing, a couple of us, but you know how life is. When I do get to chat on skype, or  exchange 'live' messages or emails, it connects me with home, with the people who know my story and whose stories I am privileged to know – and know deeply; it connects me with the fulness of my own being, for these are the relationships of my wholeness and wellbeing. Yes, gratitude indeed for the myriad ways to stay in touch, and the commitment to keep overcoming life's hurdles so that we stay connected.

The rest of Saturday was blissfully restful, as I snoozed, got a bit energetic at one point and started sticking mementos into my Scotland scrapbook, and generally pottered about doing nothing much at all.

Saturday evening was filled with new friends again, a different collection from the previous evening. Celebrating a milestone birthday of one of these new friends, I was again in a room full of joy and love. Conversations explored many questions political, theological, philosophical and whimsical.

Sunday sleep ins are delightful - I love this gathering for worship at 11 am practice at many churches in 'Scotland. After two Sundays of leading gatherings, today I was back to the pews as it were, but we were an ecumenical bunch, with the three churches of an Old Town Edinburgh relationship sharing worship together, as they do three times each year. That we do this, and celebrate communion together, warms this Uniting Church girl's heart – mine is a tribe so committed to ecumenism that it determined the shape of our name, Uniting rather than United. 

Lunch and more conversations with a couple of PhD students who knew me because I had preached at Augustine two weeks ago, but who I had not yet met, and a retired Episcopal priest. We explored some of the questions and implications of my innovative research project, and heard about the projects of the other PhD students from Lebanon and Brazil. More new friends, and more people planning to attend my performance in March.

This afternoon I attended the performance of the Edinburgh Singers, in which another friend sings. How delightful to step into a sacred space and be carried away on the wings of music for an hour. I let go, and my soul smiled wide as I noticed the way a choir resembles the mutuality of the letter I am embodying for my PhD performance. Each voice is important, both together and apart. The various sections, soloists and the organ, take their part alone, then all come together with harmony and unity. One choir, many voices; this choir unique for its particular blend of these particular voices, so that each individual voice is necessary to make the whole sound what it is.

Community. This weekend, I have connected with so many communities: family, Australian friends, storytellers, New College, Greyfriars, Augustine, The Gathering, Edinburgh friends. I have connected, brought my voice to the songs that are what they are because of each person who sings. And my whole being soars on the wings of the music we make together.

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