St. Anne’s Celtic Service Replete with History and Spirituality

Delighting guests with their harmonious rendering of "My heart is filled with thankfulness" during the Celtic Service was St. Anne's Choir, under the direction of Robb Cook. From left to right, front row: Sally Smith, Christine Felker and Ruth Sousa. Back row: Anne McHugh and Chris Littrell. (Photo by Lura Jackson). See story on page 2.

By Lura Jackson

 

On Wednesday, July 26th, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Calais celebrated the Feast Day of St. Anne. The occasion was marked with deliberate efforts to engage the community, including an outdoor market offering baked goods, crafts, and plants, and a public Celtic service in the evening. Two musicians, John and Dan Cashore of Robbinston, provided guests with music from legendary blind Irish harpist O’Carolan during the service.

“Saint Anne was the mother of Mary. What better way to celebrate our ancestors than by having a Celtic service?” said Reverend Sara Gavit of St. Anne’s. Gavit expressed that the Irish, Scottish, Cornish, and Welsh – ethnicities from which many modern Calais families are descended – have a long tradition of revering their ancestors. Gavit added that the language of the Celtic Christian community is grounded in nature and the perception that “there are these thin places out in the natural world where we encounter the divine a little more easily.”

The poems, prayers, and stories shared during the service often carried the theme of facing darkness and having faith in the coming light. Gavit shared the story of Irish monks who would commit peregrinatio pro Christo, or “exile for Christ”, willingly embarking on a journey in a small boat with no udder or oar to unknown shores for the purpose of attaining spiritual fulfillment or to spread their understanding of spirituality. “You could lose your life out on the water, and if you lived, you definitely lost a lot of other things: your homeland, your family, your friends, your connection with people who know you. If you survived the journey, if you landed on that strange shore, then you depended upon the hospitality of strangers,” Gavit said.

In their example of completely surrendering to the divine, Gavit expressed that the monks were participating in the “universal human spiritual tradition” of letting go. She drew parallels between the core tenet in Buddhism of surrendering, the examples of Abraham and Moses in Judaism, and Mohammad in Islam, the name of which translates to “surrender” in English. “These monks, these scared monks, climbing into these little boats, can serve as a model to us for a spiritual practice and a way to navigate through all of the anxiety and the uncertainty that we face, every single day.”

At the close of the Celtic service, Ruth Sousa regaled the assembled visitors with an Irish blessing, wishing for all of those present that the road rise up to meet them and the wind be at their back. 

 

This was the first time that St. Anne’s has held a Celtic service, though it is an increasingly popular offering in churches across the nation. “It was a beautiful day, and it was a great way to celebrate the feast of St. Anne’s,” said Gavit.