Dear parishioners and friends,
May is one of my favourite months. England’s green and pleasant land can be absolutely delightful, with a flourishing abundance of fresh new growth, blossom and wild flowers. It’s no surprise, then, that May is extremely popular for celebrations and festivities, as well as country walks. During May we usually have our annual church rogation walk, when we walk around the parish, thanking God for the land, the fruitfulness of the earth, praying in different locations for our farmers, businesses, residents and the local community. It usually ends with a picnic in a beautiful spot.
As Easter Day is a “movable” feast [it’s late this year], May doesn’t always have the same Christian festivals. Hence, as Ascension Day falls on 30 May 2019, both Pentecost (Whitsun) and Trinity Sunday are in early June 2019. Other ‘secular’ commemorations are also observed, such as VE day and (in the UK) the first and last Mondays of May are both bank holidays too.
Early May used to be associated with various pagan gods and festivals. It’s thought that maypole dancing was associated with some of these traditions. Nowadays, though, maypole dancing has shed those links and remains very popular in villages and schools, including Sissinghurst school. It’s a lively combination of exercise, dance and coordination. One of my uncles set up a company many decades ago making furniture, maypoles and other products. The company (Sartoris Products) still makes maypoles, under their brand name of Educational Aids. Country and barn dancing also featured prominently when I was at primary school, with similar benefits, usually in the school hall, but outside on lawns in the better weather.
At theological college I was very intrigued to discover a curious ancient Greek word:- perichoresis. It literally means “dancing around” or “inter-weaving.” Theologians trying to understand God’s character as a Trinity of three in one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) use it as a way of trying to grasp and express (albeit imperfectly) something of this profound Biblical truth. Might the harmony, joy, togetherness and exhilaration of maypole and country dancing even be giving us an insight into the nature of God, who invites us to join in the exhilaration of the dance of life in all its fullness?
Rev Fred Olney