Thursday, June 11, 2009

Corpus Christi in Fond Parisien

Fond Parisien is a town over near the border of the Dominican Republic. It's very different terrain than the town where I'm doing my field ed: instead of a lush, near tropical, agricultural area, it's mountainous, arid, and even hotter, with cactus instead of palm trees. It's difficult to make a living there, since very little grows in that climate, so the town is not well off. A lady who had come with us for the celebration explained that there is traffic going to the Dominican Republic, which helps, as well as some sugar cane, but she also pointed out telltale signs of malnutrition and poor health in one of the beautifully dressed choir children.

We went to Fond Parisien to celebrate Corpus Christi at the Mission Saint Sacrement. Going to support parishes on their patronal festival is important here, and I get the impression that inviting a guest preacher and celebrant is the thing to do no matter the size of the parish. Sr. Marie Margaret was invited to do the second reading.

There were four choirs crowded into the tiny church, along with the praise band, and we made a joyful noise to the Lord at great length. The peace/offertory time entailed a hymn, four choral pieces, and another hymn! There were quite a number of hymns and choral pieces at communion as well, but I can't tell you how many because I was outside having one of three coughing fits (of course they had seated us up front). A visiting seminarian, Marie Carmel, chanted the Prayers of the People beautifully. I reflected during some of the singing that the combination of solemn tone chant, clouds of incense, and a praise band playing at full volume seems to be standard as well. As the combination is atypical in the US, I have rather enjoyed seeing how it can work.

Just before the final dismissal and hymn came the announcements and thanks. Many, many thanks, with the naming of each individual group and guest. Most of us ended up being recognized by the end, if not all. And then the rector's wife gave a public health announcement explaining the way to prevent the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, which has not yet arrived in Haiti, but is just over the border in the Dominican Republic, if I understood correctly. Of course, having left the church coughing three times, I wanted either to crawl under my seat (don't bring your germs out to share!) or hold up a sign that said, "It's not the flu, I promise!" or "...but at least I used my hand sanitizer before passing the peace!"

Following the service, we all went up to the little apartment above the church, where there were piles of rice and beans, goat, and a variety of salads, which we devoured. Not a bite remained. Well - I say "we," but I dare not do salad here unless I am sure it is washed in treated water. Everyone else enjoyed it, though!

It was a good service, a good sermon (I understood a good part of it, anyway, and that part was good!), and a good reminder of community in the Body of Christ despite the miles that separate many of those who came.

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