Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rather than Celebrate the Solstice, Why Not Lament Jephthah’s Daughter Instead?

It has been two years since I last reported on this, so it is time for an update of Episcopaganism Solstice celebrations with an added suggested alternative.

  • St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church in San Francisco has a Celtic Winter Solstice Concert Saturday 21 December 2013
  • New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine Winter Solstice Celebration, by Paul Winter
"In ancient times, observers watched the sun sink lower in the sky each day, and feared it would disappear completely and leave them in darkness.
People practiced special rituals intended to entice the sun’s return. Bonfires and candles, with their imitative magic, helped fortify the waning sun and ward off the spirits of darkness. These symbols live on in our modern seasonal customs: the candles of Hanukkah and Christmas are kin to the fiery rites of old, which celebrated the miracle of the earth’s renewal.
These traditions reflect our need to come together in times of extended darkness. We celebrate not only the rebirth of the sun, but the community of life on earth."
  • Camp Bratton-Green Mississippi whose goal is
"To foster and nurture the spiritual growth of children and young people
through a Christian camp experience."
offers a
"Winter Solstice for high-schoolers over the Christmas break each year."
  • St. Paul's Cathedral Syracuse, Syracuse Community Choir Winter Solstice Concert 2013
  • The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer Cincinnati has a
"traditional Celtic Winter Solstice program featuring the Clark-Jones trio is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21."
  • I suspect St. Michael and All Angels in Columbia SC (formerly know as St. Michael and All Druids but now mercifully under new administration) needs to update their web page which still lists (but not on the calendar),
"On the appropriate dates, the Winter and Summer Solstices and Fall and Spring Equinoxes are observed in the Outdoor Chapel of Refuge and Grace."
"A Winter’s Night: Music and Poetry for the Solstice: music perfect for the holiday season, interwoven with text and poetry narrated by special guest, NPR’s Neal Conan."

Thankfully the list of Episcopal churches advertising their Winter Solstice celebrations is getting shorter. I guess all the negative press might have had something to do with it, but more than likely it is the poor attendance of these services by informed pewsitters or it is due to the apathy of pagans who would rather stay home and worship the sun at home.

If the Solstice services are a poor draw for your church, might I suggest a sure fire crowd magnet?

How about a Lament for Jephthah's Daughter?

From RitualWell

"The story of Jephthah’s Daughter (Judges 11) tells us that Jephthah the Gileadite made a vow to the Lord before going into battle with the Ammonites. He vowed that if he succeeded in battle he would offer up to the Lord as a burnt offering whatever first came forth from his doors of his house to meet him. When his daughter (who is unnamed in the text) comes out with timbrels and dances to greet him, he rends his clothes, saying that she has brought him very low and troubled him, but that a vow to God cannot be retracted. She does not protest, but obtains permission to spend two months in the mountains with her companions, to bewail her virginity. When she returns, Jephthah fulfills his vow. An epilogue tells us that it was a custom for the daughters of Israel to lament her death for four days each year. This is the earliest example in recorded history of the fact of women gathered together in an annual ceremony."
"This ritual of grieving may be performed on 11 Cheshvan (Oct 25-26), the date of mourning for the death of Rachel and an occasion for mourning the exile of the Shekhinah and the loss of the feminine. Alternatively, this ritual may be performed on the winter solstice, which according to medieval Jewish tradition is the date on which Jephthah's daughter died."
I can see it set to music with dancers, wailing women, angels, and choirs all performing in a darkly lit church representing the longest dark night of the soul.

I think it might work.

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