Dancers, Potters Enhance Worship
The United Church’s 40th General Council went down to the potter’s house during opening worship August 9. Flanked by two potters shaping bowls on potter’s wheels, the Rt. Rev. David Giuliano preached about lessons the church can learn from potters.
He reminded worshippers that the theme of this Council is “down to the potter’s house,” based on the 18th chapter of Jeremiah. Stones have to be removed from the clay before you can work with it, the Moderator told commissioners and visitors to the 40th General Council.
“The stones get in the way of shaping the pot,” he said. “We need to be aware of the rocks, of the hard places in our hearts.” Guiliano said commissioners might have to temporarily set aside assumptions and ideas that “interfere with the shaping the Creator is trying to do with us.”
He described the next stage of pottery making, called wedging, in which the ball of clay is continuously pounded “to soften the memory of the clay.” He said clay “remembers” its original shape, so the potter has to help the clay “let go” of that memory.
“Most often institutions are very attached to the memory of who they are already,” Giuliano said, “but the memory of who we are may interfere with the call to become who God is calling us to be.”
Finally, the clay must be centred on the wheel. Giuliano said the church must be centred in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in who we are as the United Church in the body of Jesus Christ.
“God invites us into a creative act, a constant act of recreation,” he said as potter Daryl Auten finished creating three large bowls to one side of Giuliano while Catherine Auten finished creating four smaller bowls on the other side of the stage.
The worship service began with drumming by the Vernon Immersion School Singers. Sarah Wyatt and Ha’eis Clare Hill from the Council’s Worship Committee led in a litany of the four directions. Worshippers faced in the four compass directions as symbolic candles were lit.
Four dancers dressed in earth tones interpreted the image of the potter. Circling, alternately moving together, and then moving outward from a centre point, the dancers depicted the stages of clay being moulded and shaped.
“We are clay, complex and beautiful,” said Eric Hamlyn, introducing the interpretative dance. “We are simple in form, yet beautiful in potential, willing to be shaped by a loving Creator.”
The diversity of the United Church was expressed throughout the service. Scriptures were read in several languages, including Filipino, Cree, Portuguese, and Japanese. All hymns were sung in French and English.
Members of the Youth Forum served communion at stations located around the gym at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia, where the Council is meeting.
Members from nearby United Churches filled the visitors’ gallery, joining in the opening worship.