For me, the seeds of this project were sown as I sat in the back of a production van on the way to a TV shoot on Cortes Island B.C. We were in the middle of production for a Gemini-nominated but predictably short-lived series called 5Seekers. We were taking 5 Canadians on a continental journey to find their spiritual path. As we wound our way through the cathedral pines of the pacific northwest, the sky a gun metal grey receding in our rear view mirror I looked through my notes to remind myself of where and who we were going to meet.
Turns out there was a woman, a resident of Cortes, who every Friday night invited any and all who wanted to join her for a Sabbath dinner. My assumption upon hearing about her was that she, like me, was Jewish. Why else would she pick Friday for a Sabbath meal? I was wrong. She wasn’t Jewish. In fact her home was filled with what amounted to the stations of the cross, except that each shrine she had constructed reflected a different religious or spiritual belief. Her home was a true spiritual buffet.
The meal she served was simple but the impact of that evening was powerful for me.
When I returned home I told my wife all about the trip — how we started in Sedona Arizona the new age capital of the world and ended in Cortes where the incredible Hollyhock Retreat is found. Our “Seekers”, well they went though a lot. Whether or not they found lasting transformation, I think that was frankly a bit too much to ask, of us and them.
Me, I have always felt comfortable in my faith but the Sabbath trip had rekindled memories of Friday nights with family and the fundamental sabbatical ideal that for six days we do and for the one day of the Sabbath we are allowed to just be. To unplug and restore. A profoundly green principle.
Since then our home has been a gathering place on most Friday evenings for friends, new and old, for ideas contentious and comforting, good simple food and yes a fair bit of wine. But this is not just a dinner party, though the table is home to everyone from atheists to those of devout faith.
We start each meal lighting candles, then we go around the table blessing whoever and whatever those who have gathered see fit. After we toast each other and bless the homemade bread my wife has baked, much eating and conversation ensues. The simple act of soliciting a blessing from all who have gathered brings each participant in to focus for themselves and those around them. They could be blessing a child away at school, an ailing mother or simply their love for their partner sitting beside them and being honoured. As Leonard Cohen says you must build a fence around the sacred if you want to protect and nurture it in your life. Our New Sabbath Project is a step in that direction.
Now it’s time to tale this pluralistic, inclusive Sabbath project one step further. We want to incorporate the ideals of community, culture and a renewed citizenship into this event and share what comes from them with you. This blog-site is an opportunity for us and you to create connections that leapfrog the narrow conversation that dominates so much of our discourse and break through the isolation that modern life imposes.
We want to share ideas, links, even the simple recipes that make our gathering easy to create and filled with the voices that make us all richer.
We encourage you to begin your own Sabbath projects, not to the exclusion of those who share neither your cultural or spiritual background but in fact quite the opposite, we want to build bridges that allow us all to share in this journey together.