For so many centuries, cathedrals were built with many purposes. Designed to be without chairs, the floors had grand designs in them and the space was open, so that the floor could host so many different events. People stood for worship…and survived the standing. The cathedral was, and always has been, the seat of the Bishop from which his or her hosting of the Eucharist flows to the altars of the other diocesan clergy so that all of us are connected as a family. When the Bishop was not celebrating, and the church community was not worshipping, the building was sometimes a market in bad weather, a court in times of upheaval, a hospital in times of plague and illness, a refuge in times of attack, a warehouse in times of need and, of course, a banquet hall in times of celebration.
Once the church decided that Gnosticism was a heresy, it became easier to use a church for the joyful events in the life of the village as well as for the solemn events of its worship. Jesus gathered his friends, they were men and women and children – and they ate a meal together.
Jesus used the bread and wine at hand to ask that we gather and re-tell the story over and over again and so we do. And there was Strongbow hard cider and bread last night – close enough.
The cathedral hosted a party last night – that grand building was our dining hall! I was stunned by the many smiles of more than 300 just as I am confused by how many look so dower on sundays. But last night there was a new feel in the place. There was great joy. Grins were broad, laughter easy, bodies close and faces warm even if dripping in butter and cider. We did something no one thought possible…which is always fun.
The shrimp and new potatoes, the corn and sausage were steaming from hand-made paper bowls and there was no way back to your seat in the great nave without passing a table with vats of melted, hot butter. Then we migrated to the parish hall where a swing band sent us all dancing round the room with herb-flavored popsicles, more cider and even broader smiles. Kai danced with the Senior Warden, and I danced with my new friends, and we all celebrated life with reckless abandon. And we celebrated having raised more than $1.2 million for mission and ministry next year.
And it was as great a day as I have ever seen.