Sunday, December 23, 2012

Palenque Rainbow Gathering - post #2

After the great flood of 12/21, we left for an afternoon to find our campmates who were away during the flood, and then returned to the gathering. I call it the "great flood," because so many people had camped close to the river, and we had spent a few hours in the early morning darkness harboring wet fugitives under our large tarp, or helping pull tents out of the river.

This was our last full day in Palenque, and so we packed up our stuff. Joshua, Jeff, and Chris had already left for home. Shlomy, Cate, and myself were the remaining people from the Jesus camp with our new found friend Benjamin.

Benjamin joined us in the first few days at The Gathering. He said that he had felt his faith in Christ waning with his long travels and the influence of the Rainbow Gathering, but he was encouraged by his time with us over the week. He would prove to rock it for Jesus like nothing I've seen in awhile.

I said a few goodbyes on the last day, and then discovered there was going to be an evening ceremony. I was asked to join the ceremony by presenting an invocation for Christ to be present. I was honored to do so. Such ceremonies often dislike an obvious Christian presence, and so the invitation was a statement of acceptance by some of the leaders of the community.

Cate was feeling sick, and sat out the invocation. Shlomy and I prepared some simple ideas. We would start with myself giving an introduction, Benjamin would pray and invite the presence of Jesus into the circle, and Shlomy would do a recitation-response reading from Psalm 136.

The gathering of the ceremony circle took quite some time to begin. It included a group trying to create a spiral dance, and a long "Om" by the crowd of over 500. Then a spanish speaking man I had not met offered a New Age devotional, and a time to hug ourselves and tell ourselves that we love ourselves. I did not do too much self hugging, because having love of self seems to often be more my problem than my help.

He finished and Shlomy, Benjamin and I stood in the perimeter berm of the fire in the center of the circle.

With a translator helping to convert my words to Spanish, I started by saying, "We are wounded healers. We are philosopher clowns. We are impoverished philanthropists." At this many people identified personally and laughed, and so I continued, "We have nothing and everything to give. We are broken and yet we offer wholeness." 

Despite the fact that many in the Rainbow family feel that there is no such thing as good and evil - no imperfection, this was still received well. And seeing this I pressed just a little further.

"I come from a broken tradition." There was a smattering of laughter from those who knew something about me. "Everyone knows my tradition is broken. The whole world sees it. I am a Christian Pastor!" And now everyone laughed loudly with me.

"Even in our brokenness we have something to offer, and so we want to invite the spirit, not just the spirit, but the person of Jesus to join the circle. If you would like to join in this invocation, we invite you to lift your hands." 

And so, some sheepishly, some boldly, but many people lifted their hands. 

Then Benjamin prayed.

At first slowly, then increasing in a gentle rising meter he prayed. I had told Benjamin to use his spoken word, and hip-hop poetry if he felt so inclined, and a few sentences into the prayer he did. He was poppin' rhymes about our brokenness and Christ's crucifixion, rhymes about God's glory and Christ's uniqueness.

A few hecklers made some comments from the crowd, but it remained respectful for the most part, and was well received by a few. Then our friend Jorge, a Mayan Christian from Palenque began to translate. As he did, Spanish speaking Christians began to join his prayer loudly, and others began to counter the rising prayers by trying to shout the prayers down, and then a crazy pandemonium broke out. We were in the middle of 500 New Agers, Radical Faeries, noisy Spanish speaking Christians, angry Latin American travelers, and confused hippies. Some shouting that there is no god but ourselves, and some shouting that there is only one God. Others were shouting that there should be no division - that we are all one, and still others ringing bells, and trying to create the ever present Om.

I laughed at the silliness of it all, even though I realized it could get out of control in a quick moment. It seemed to go on for maybe five minutes. Then it eventually subsided with one group creating that ever present Rainbow Om. 

The ceremony eventually continued with far less control than the leaders hoped for, and occasional rants from hippies over little issues, but it ended peacefully. We hugged Jorge and Ingrid (his girlfriend who arranged the ceremony). I blessed them and their life together. Then we left to take Cate, who was feeling ill, back to Palenque. 

As we left the Rainbow Gathering, Benjamin said, "I would not have felt complete without standing up for Christ like that. It could only have been better if someone had thrown a rock at me."

I like how Benjamin thinks. I understand.

This was our last night at the Rainbow Gathering, and it felt just a bit Pauline. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stories From the End of the World Rainbow Gathering

A first of a short series:

Front page of Christianity Today is carrying a short dispatch post of our time at the gathering:

Direct link:

At the ceremony circle:

On our third day at the rainbow gathering in Palenque, the morning food circle was followed by a "focalizer group" to determine the type of ceremony to occur on the 21st. These are the festival moments I feel most compelled to participate in. From our camp only Cate From Asheville was there with me.

The discussion centered around only a couple topics and lasted almost all day. The first topic was the location of the ceremony. The second was the nature of the ceremony. The ceremony had a talking stick to regulate discussion and keep interruptions at bay.

Most of the Rainbow Family wanted to hold the ceremony on the archaeologocal grounds at the temple site. They were willing to sneak in over the mountains on a four hour trek to come in a back way if necessary. The temple site is not open at dawn and gaining access  appeared to be impossible, because even the Mayan elders were not holding ceremonies on that day. It seemed clear from the discussion by those who were familiar with the government, and the site that access would prove difficult if not impossible.

A young man with long dreads (which defines 50% of the young men at the gathering) told a story of holding a siege type ceremony at Tikal, Guatamala - complete with riot police on 12/12/12. He was part of a Rainbow Caravan that started a year earlier in Canada, and made it's way to the international Rainbow Gathering in Guatamala to meet another caravan coming from Argentina. Those who wanted to gather for a ceremony in Tikal went to the temple grounds and were denied access. 80 people stood in a circle in front of the gates, and began to hum, "Om." Then they walked through the front gates untouched. They created a sacred fire, and began a ceremony in the rain which began to fall. Soon the riot police arrived. One last girl tried to protect the sacred fire, but the guys carried her out. The whole event ended peacefully with the police driving many of those who had walked or were on bike out to the distant entrance. The wiser locals did not consider this a best example to follow in Palenque.

The circle was filled with many interesting characters. Many people had no opinion on the meaning 12/21, but felt that unity was important. Most ideas were no more creative than holding hands in an "Om Circle." Some people did not care if the date was important. Some thought it was the beginning date for the transition to the age of Aquarius. One long white bearded gentleman called Raja Merk Dove said he was a Senior Interplanetary Space Ambassador, and encouraged unity. The Interplanetary Space Commission was in charge of helping take care of "trash planets," and of course, Earth was considered one because of the way we treated the planet.

At one point, Cate took the talking stick and stated graciously that she desired to see her path represented. She was a follower of Yeshua - Jesus, and He is the Prince of Peace. She desired a moment to seek His Spirit. Oh, yeah. Cate rocks.

I spoke after Cate. My goal is often to open only a slightly larger crack in the opportunities which present themselves to us.

"Shwmae fy nheleu. Fi ydy Phileo. Oedd fy nhadau yn dod o gwlad Gymru."

I translated my own words and then continued. "Hello my family. I am Phileo (this was the name Shlomy had given me). My fathers came from the land of Wales."

Then I talked about how I felt connected to the early Welsh saints who were likely the last of the ancient Druids. Who (it is said) were slaughtered by the Romans. Then I spoke of how I could bring to the table of our common gathering something from this tradition, and I suggested an Eisteddfod experience - a place for poets and musicians from many traditions to share their skills.

After all, an open event with many people sharing seems far more open to the Gospel than silence and "Om Circles," because good news does come through proclamation - no matter how silly that seems at times.