08 March 2011

Joyful Noise

Well that was one of the most unusual and delightful experiences I've ever had.

Today is Mardi Gras, the last big blow-out before the start of Lent's period of sober self-assessment and self-denial, leading up to Easter. Mardi Gras celebrations in the U.S. of course reflect New Orleans culture, and a key element of that culture is zydeco. Never heard of it? It's wonderful music, born in Louisiana, that mixes African rhythms with blues, rock, and swing, played on accordions, guitars, string bass, drums, and even washboards sometimes.

Religiously conservative readers, hold up your hands in horror now as I tell you of the zydeco mass I attended this evening at St. Paul's. It was a regular church service with music provided by Theo and the Zydeco Patrol, with clergy dancing up the aisle instead of the regular stately, slow procession, and congregation doing some dancing in the aisles too, many of them decked out in the most lavish Mardi Gras costumes. There to the right is my friend Chris, who's on staff at the cathedral and obviously a very good dancer, even in liturgical robes.

The dean of the cathedral gave a short sermon whose basic message was this: "We are all children of God, and children need to play. There are good ways and not so good ways to play. Tonight in our worship service we let loose the children within all of us for a little bit of the good kind of play, as we celebrate all the good things of life and all the blessings we have." A very good message indeed, I thought.

And with that, more music started, and more dancing in the aisles ensued. Spouses with spouses, parents with kids, friends with friends. Even your humble correspondent took the opportunity to dance in the aisle with the assistant dean of the cathedral, who also happens to be a 5th great-granddaughter of someone you may have heard of, one Joseph Smith. It was delightful. That's her in the center of that photo down below to the right.

The Bible speaks of singing and dancing "before the Lord" and making a "joyful noise." And that's certainly what we did tonight. And you know what? I came away from that delightful hour just as exhilarated and spiritually fed as I ever did from any other worship service anywhere. Church doesn't need to be somber all the time. Sometimes it's good to just bust out and do what King David did. We have so much to celebrate, why not let it loose once in a while?

Just down below there is how the service ended. No doubt some would call it irreverent and even sacrilegious. Meh. It was a delightful celebration of so many divine gifts. And I will definitely be going next year. In a costume.


Kiley said...

I LOVE Zydeco! Sounds like a very interesting church service.

Pablo said...


Sounds like even more fun than the dances Joseph Smith used to hold in the Nauvoo temple back in the day. ;)

Kuddos to St. Paul's for offering this kind of service and message. Very cool post Rob.

J G-W said...

Sounds fun! I'm a fan of Zydeco too... A friend of mine from the gospel choir Göran and I sing in introduced me to it...

Anonymous said...

This sentence made me laugh out loud while reading this in Starbucks: "Religiously conservative readers, hold up your hands in horror now as I tell you of the zydeco mass I attended this evening at St. Paul's."

I'll have to check out Zydeco. I havent heard of it before.