Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Faith Works 9-24-05
Jeff Gill

Time and Timelessness in Worship

England’s vast and towering cathedrals have just under a thousand years of history and tradition built into them. This can be a challenge as well as a delight, for both today’s worshipers and historians, let alone tour guides.
In the 1100’s and 1200’s when most were dedicated and begun, the Anglican world was part of Roman Christendom, what we now call the Catholic Church. In the 1500’s the Church of England chose a different course than the Lutheran Reformation sweeping Europe, but still decisively split with the Bishop of Rome (aka "the Pope," or "il Papa" as father of the church on earth as vicar of Christ in heaven).
Today the Anglican Communion, represented in America by the Episcopal Church, is the tradition holding services in these cathedrals. Occasionally, sometimes with humor and infrequently with a touch of bitterness, an English Catholic will speak of "wanting our churches back," but with 500 years on either side of the usage, which is the right way to worship in a British cathedral?
We have an interesting and even more complicated challenge here in Licking County. While Canterbury and Westminster have not yet reached their 1000 mark, the ceremonial sites of the Newark Earthworks, the Great Circle by Heath and Octagon State Memorial off 33rd St., are acknowledged by scientists to be at or beyond 2000 years of age.
What is the proper way to acknowledge the worship dimension of sites built before written language in this area? We know the descendants of the builders, modern American Indians (some like that label, others Native American, most prefer a tribal name like Shawnee or Miami) still live in the Ohio Valley.
But like the Church of England over just a quarter of the two millennia represented by the Newark Earthworks, the modern version of ceremony and ritual may not accurately image what was accepted practice in the beginning.
For the organizers of the events taking place this fall around the Newark Earthworks, and the moonrise cycle of 18.6 years pointed out by the main axis of the octagon, the answer has been humility.
Humility is really the only reasonable approach to a structure of such age and significance, and humility is certainly called for in welcoming faithful people of so many traditions to a common event.
We know so little for certain about the valley between Raccoon Creek and the Licking River 2000 years ago, but we know that the movement of the moon and sun and stars were of crucial importance for life itself, in farming and harvest and surviving the winter. Rituals that kept the people together, and brought hope for the future, even simply the hope of another spring, had to be at their heart.
Beyond that is speculation, and the hints from living traditions around us still.
October 22 will give the public a chance to share, with humility, in a quiet simple observance of the moon rising at a predictable but irregular spot on the horizon, defined by earthen walls built by hand. Moonrises before and after that date will give Native Americans and scholars a chance to expand their circle of understanding of this monumental site, and of each other.
And if you are humbly interested in learning more, check out www.octagonmoonrise.org!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; you can offer to volunteer to help with the Oct. 22 events during the day or at the Octagon that night by e-mailing him at disciple@voyager.net.

No comments:

Post a Comment