by Sally Bullas

How wonderful it has been to break through the past few years of restrictions and enjoy the months of dynamic programming in 2022-23 as the Gabriola Ecumenical Society celebrated its 19th year exploring paths of spiritual depth and awareness that embrace one truth with its Annual 2023 Picnic.

Look for great things coming up as GES marks its 20th anniversary in 23-24 with some extra special activities and spirit-engaging events.

It was a hot and sunny afternoon for a picnic – perfect weather – and the Net Loft was once again the perfect location at which to gather. We received a warm welcome from Brenda Gaertner, lawn games were set up, and an invitation was given to explore her beautiful, bee-friendly garden.  Lynette Jackson at the registration table and other GES Board members welcomed over 50 people who positioned their lawn chairs in the sunshine or sought out selective spots in the available shade for conversation backed by the spirited renditions of live music provided by John Bryson and friends, Bob Mckecknie, Gary Holmes, Paul Gellman, Mike Super on the Djembe, and added vocals by Shelagh Huston. 

As MC, Amy Block ignited the proceedings with warmth and a festive feel and initiated the program portion of the event with a thought-provoking reading from “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulgham.  Brenda Gaertner followed with words of acknowledgement and thanksgiving for the land upon which we were assembled, reminding us of the presence of the ancestors of the Snuneymuxw who welcome and invite us to this special place that has become the locus for sacred community gatherings.   Several of the original GES founders from 19 years ago were introduced and thanked for their foresight and wisdom in spearheading GES: Anne Sims, Del McCarthy, David Soy, Shelagh Huston, Anniken De Lissa  and Eric and Sue Bolton. 

This was followed by a very special acknowledgement of Maureen Wild’s recently being awarded the 2023 Sacred Universe Award for ecologically focussed activism.  Maureen revealed her award, a beautifully rendered artwork, and read the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem that accompanied it.  In gratitude for Maureen’s many contributions to GES and the local and global community, Lynette Jackson presented Maureen with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  A fun musical ice breaker brought together old friends and newcomers to GES, preparing the way for a sung blessing led by Shelagh Huston that pointed us in the direction of the barbeque feast awaiting.

All in all, it was an afternoon blessed by the beauty of location, the gathering of friends in the spirit of well-being and peace, an opportunity to dance and play to the sounds of great music, to feast together on barbequed hamburgers and hotdogs with all the fixings, and relish a grand variety of sumptuous desserts provided by several GES members.  Thank you to the many who had a hand in organizing this much-loved annual event.

A sincere thanks to Catherine Woodward and Sally Bullas for spearheading things along with Del McCarthy.  Thank you to Lynnette Jackson at the registration table, Amy Block as MC, John Bryson for once again bringing together the group of musicians who volunteer their time for our enjoyment, to Shelah Huston for the sung blessing, and John Bloomstrand as lead-hand at the barbeque.  Many hands came together to prepare and laden the tables with food, drink, and condiments, and many more helped with the clean up and dish washing—thank you to all. The GES Board would also like to express special thanks to Brenda for enabling us to enjoy the beauty and amenities of the Net Loft and its glorious surroundings.  It was a joy-filled afternoon!