Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ireland's First Messianic Wedding

Ireland’s First Messianic Wedding

A 12th century-castle. Whitewashed stone walls, dark timber beams with carved figurine bases, leadlighted windows, red and black and yellow mosaic tiles on the floor of the high Great Hall. All is ready for the wedding: the chupa, the menorahs, the anointing oil, the shofar, the silver goblet of wine, the rings on their silken pillow. Enter now the string quartet in black suits; they play as the guests arrive. Now the worship quartet in black and white. I swing in behind the guitar and call the murmuring assembly to silence so we can start the singing.

Then the bridal parties enter: first the groom with his bride’s nephews, all in dark green kilts. Ilan of course is also wearing a kippah and tallit over his Scottish regalia. Three bridesmaids carried log-stemmed lilies. Finally, the bride, Alison herself, in white with a dark green cape to trail behind her, and over it all a long, long veil reaching to the floor.

Some of the readings confused me at first, until I realised this was Ephesians 5, speaking of Yeshua and the Messianic Community. The wine was shared and the anointing oil applied. Vows were exchanged, many and powerful, more than we’re used to in our church weddings. The shofar was blown and the crowd shouted - the young men in kilts, the princesses in their finest robes, the bards in black. A banquet fit for royalty was all ready in the balcony.

A wood fire was lit in the eight-foot hearth. Smoke filled the hall and sent guests rushing into the cold evening. When it was safe to return, we discovered the smoke had gathered in an upper room of the tower. The setting sun streamed through mullioned windows and turned the hazy air to magical rays of light, a background the photographers were forced to use.

Later the string quartet struck up Hava Nagila and we danced in concentric circles around Alison and Ilan, whooping as we went. After a while I danced a slow waltz with one of the kilted warriors, who was probably ten years younger than me.

(More pictures are coming at a later date, I hope. My camera didn't do too well in the candlelight!)

The next morning I dragged myself and my daze by the shortcut along the seafront to be with the church that’s become my family. After worship - a fantastic job by Liam, Raissa, Ogey and Christine - Noel called me to the front. Maggie presented me with a gold-wrapped box. These folks are full of surprises! Well, anyway, it contained a Claddagh necklace and earrings - an ancient Irish symbol of friendship. Perhaps I’ll have to get my ears pierced after all, a permanent reminder of my friends in Balbriggan.

Oh, I was sorry to leave them. Yet even as I got off the bus in Belfast on Sunday night, the North worked its magic on me and I’m more than glad to be here. In knowing this isle of my mother’s roots - her mother from the South, her father from the North - I have come to love it more and more. And I sat in a blue train rushing towards Bangor. Dream on, friends; it may take you far.

On Monday I walked the coastal towns from Crawfordsburn through Bangor, Ballyholme, and nearly to Groomsport, but there was too much mud on the track in the end. Still, it was a round trip of about eight miles.

In writing news: Cyberdublin is up to thirty-two thousand words, Godspeed is still stuck at two thousand - but just wait, now that I’m in Bangor things could start to happen! The Legendary Space Pilgrims are under edits and the second draft is shaping up nicely, though there's plenty more work to be done.
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