The hundred-twenty-plus chairs neatly aligned in eager anticipation of the evening were already completely filled, and still our amazing Gabriola community supporters kept arriving. By 7:30 every last chair in the back of the Phoenix Auditorium closets had been hauled out, and one hundred and fifty of us turned our attention to honouring the efforts of the Gabriola Ecumenical Society volunteers over the past twenty years, to welcoming SpiritQuest Gabriola, the new name under which our public events offerings will be going forward, and to delighting in Gabriola’s Trio Sayso — Leah Hokanson, Allannah Dow, and Tina Jones — who inspired us all with a wonderfully uplifting concert.

Profound thanks to our honoured guests, to these talented musicians, and to all who turned out to make the evening a truly heart-felt celebration of Spirit! We look forward to finding out what the next twenty years may have in store for spiritual questing in our amazing island community.

Our Elders Welcome, Salute to our Honoured Guests, and SpiritQuest Gabriola Introduction

by Lynette Jackson

 

A bit about GES

I am going take a few moments  on behalf of the Gabriola Ecumenical Society to share just a bit about us: who we are, what we do, and why we do it. This is a bit “off-brand”, as we are usually introducing the spiritual teacher or facilitator of the evening — but it turns out that, on our 20th anniversary, we have something to say about ourselves.

We are a non-profit, almost entirely volunteer organization.  We own no tangible assets, have no commercial or business sponsors, and do not apply for government or corporate grants. We  operate with a small board of directors in which all of us volunteer our time and efforts to offer spiritually themed public events throughout the year, at various island venues, and always with the same intent:   to nurture and encourage open-hearted spiritual questing.

GES is founded on the premise that not only all people, but also all life forms, including the very elements of earth, air, fire, and water themselves as well as the cosmos surrounding Earth, are emanations of spirit in constant creative unfolding.  Everything and every one of us are expressions of spirit. No matter what political or cultural forces seek to divide us,  every one of us belongs, right here, right now, and are of inestimable value to the whole.

We  embrace the perspective that we are all already spiritual beings, whether or not we identify with a particular path, devote daily time to meditation or prayer, or perhaps choose not to give the notion of spirit a second thought.  Everything and everyone belongs, and one way to reduce the artificial barriers created by the duality concept of “us versus them” is by reaching out with open minds and generous hearts to learn more about ways different from our own choices.

Examples of our Programming

Let me walk you few a few brief examples from this past year’s roster of events. Our tag line is “Unity in Diversity”, and it’s been quite a diverse year indeed.

  • We introduced more islanders to  the ancient Hindu practice of spirited Kirtan chanting, via a Sunday afternoon gathering led by Gabriola’s own Ode Howard at Net Loft.
  • At the Theatre Centre on Peterson we explored the healing power of ritual and the elements involved in creating one’s own meaningful personal rituals with Kes Arrands.
  • We held a community discussion at the Gabriola Public Library, focussed on First Nations author Richard Wagamese’s profound sharing of traditional Ojibway teachings through his most personal book, Embers.
  • At the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre we contributed to the island’s Earth Day celebration via Maureen Wild’s poetic and visually beautiful exploration of the “Great Work” of planetary healing as envisioned by the renowned Christian geologian Thomas Berry.
  • We invited two Jewish representatives of the Quaker religion to Gabriola, where they presented at Christ Church Gabriola on “The Quaker Way of Peace in These Turbulent Times”.
  • And perhaps my favourite event of all was an old-fashioned bone china and Battenberg lace tea party, held at the same church, to honour Eric and Sue Boulton for their decades of contribution to this island and to GES. It was a collective community hug of steaming tea, freshly baked scones, unabashedly pink roses, and yes! wonderful music! — all to express our love and caring for the Boultons and to express our support during recent challenges.

Next month, we will once again be partnering with Rainie and Dennis Evans to host the venerable Lama Losang Samten on his annual weekend retreat at Net Loft.  This year Lama Losang will lead explorations of contrasting emanations of the Divine Feminine — both The White Tara, goddess of longevity and tranquil compassion and the fiercely uncompromising Palden Llamo, ferocious guardian and relentless emissary of Truth itself.

 

What else are we up to?

Well, we maintain a lively website, thanks in large part to the gifted Colleen McCarthy, and publish a monthly newsletter for our members. We sponsor three annual community fellowship occasions under the facilitation of the intrepid Catherine Woodward, including

  • a festive and relaxing summer picnic,
  • a fall Giving Thanks feast at the Gabriola Golf Clubhouse, and
  • December Carolling via the Gertie Bus to the homes of folks who are experiencing mobility challenges.

 

Ecumenical – universal, whole, spiritually inclusive, open and collective.

I hope this illustrates how we apply the term “ecumenical” in its broadest sense, to mean universal, whole, spiritually inclusive, open and collective.

On the other hand (because there inevitably is one!) we sometimes receive frank feedback that the word ecumenical itself is —well — kinda a mouthful and not particularly well-known or much used.  In fact sometimes it serves as a barrier to those who feel uncertain or uncomfortable with what it might imply.  This conundrum has been discussed, repeatedly and usually inconclusively, over the years. What to do, what not to do?

 

SpiritQuest Gabriola

 

We are delighted to announce that we have finally found a way to bridge our cherished  20-year-long roots with an appreciation of the sensibilities of new generations of seekers.  The events arm of GES has embraced a new name and logo, that of SpiritQuest Gabriola. This will start to appear as the identifier of our community events going forward into the future. 

We hope it will feel more inclusive and welcoming, and help some of us to feel a little less bemused and more included in our offerings.  Our twentieth anniversary party seems to us an auspicious occasion to announce this change, and hey! you are the first to know!  Our heartfelt thanks to Rainie Evans for the lovely calligraphy and contemporary mandala design.  Both are greatly appreciated.

Our many volunteers

Many people in this audience have contributed to GES events at various times over the years, and we couldn’t possibly acknowledge you all individually.  You know who you are, and we hope you realize that your time and talents are much appreciated indeed.

However, there are some who have stood the test of time over a significant number of years, and this is our opportunity to offer our public acknowledgement and deep gratitude.

Our Elders

First, to our GES Elders: those  who were involved at the very beginning  and are here tonight as our honoured guests. As I introduce you,  you don’t necessarily need to stand, but perhaps a little wave would be grand as we send blooms of gratitude to you intrepid visionaries who launched this journey.

First, our own Del McCarthy, for her unbroken twenty year service on our board!

And  now here are our original Board Members, including:  Anne Sims, Imelda Cuthbertson, Anniken De Lissa, Shelagh Huston, David Soy,  Eileen McConnell — whom we thank not only for her boundless hospitality but in honour of her late husband and board member Alex McConnell. We love you all dearly and thank you for your vision, stamina, and tenacity.

Our long-time supporters and contributors

We also wish to acknowledge with love and appreciation our long-time supporters and contributors Eric and Sue Boulton, Carol Heimrich, Maureen Wild, Amy Block, Colleen McCarthy, Deb Trca, Rainie Evans, Brenda Gaertner, Catherine Woodward, and our current extraordinary secretary-treasurer Lisa Millard for her above and beyond contributions.

Our Musicians

And what would life be without music? High trills of appreciation for John Bryson, Paul Gellman, Marilyn Smith, Gary Badke, and our own Leah Hokanson, Tina Jones, and Allannah Dow who are once again delighting us all tonight.

And with that,  I turn you over to the brilliant multi-genre stylings for the brave and tenderhearted of the amazing, generous-hearted and super-talented — Leah Hokanson, Tina Jones, and Allannah Dow — TRIO SAYSO!

GES Appreciation of Trio Sayso

Leah Hokanson, Allannah Dow, Tina Jones

What a gift it has been to listen to the communal magic of music-making channeled by these gifted women, harmonic soul sisters united in common cause.

Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. has written and produced music for many of the most gifted musical voices of our time. He spoke at the Grammy Awards ceremony this year, accompanied by a resonant string quartet, about this amazing power of music to unite hearts and minds across the planet. He celebrated the global reach of music to unite us in shared experience, while deploring the horror of acts of terrorism recently perpetrated on concert-goers in various parts of the word, reminding us that music “brings us together like nothing else can . . . we live in a world divided by so much, and maybe music can’t solve everything — but let us all agree, music must remain the common ground upon which we all stand together in peace and harmony, because music has always been one of humanity’s greatest connectors.  Think about it — every song that we are hearing about or honouring tonight moved someone, no matter where they were from or what they believed, and connected them to others who were moved in the same way.  Take this string quartet: as individuals they sound really good, but together they achieve something beautiful they could never do apart.  These musicians of Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab descent are here, playing together,   Now is the time for us, for humanity, to play together, to come together, with empathy and with love.”

Whether referring to a sweet auditorium on a small Gulf Island, or a giant concert hall ceremony televised across the planet, this message rings true.  Long live the healing, connecting power of music, illuminating the potential for peace beyond all other forms of communication we reckless human beings have devised. Thank you, Trio Sayso, for reminding us of who we truly are and can be together.

Del McCarthy’s 20th Anniversary Tribute

What a wonderful energy in this room tonight! Pulsating, alive, flowing, just like the spirit that has guided our Gabriola Ecumenical community for the past 20 years.

Deep gratitude to our very talented musicians, Leah, Allannah, and Tina. All three have hosted many musical events for our society over the years. How appropriate to have them leading us in celebration tonight.

A huge thank you to the multitude of Gabriolans, many who are here tonight, who have shared part of their spiritual journeys with our community. You have gifted us with the planning and arranging of the hundreds of programs and events that we have sponsored over our 20 year history. In addition, we have had an amazing group of spirit-focused Gabriolans present a wide variety of fascinating programs and forums, introducing us to a much wider vision of spirituality. We are grateful for the enthusiasm, the willingness to take on leadership roles, the dedication and most importantly the wisdom, as we opened our minds and our hearts in our search for unity in all of our diversity. We treasure the experience of interconnectedness we have experienced. We are truly all one in the Spirit!

Over the years we have honoured one another’s personal faith traditions and life experiences, while continuing to seek transformation and a deep sense of interconnectedness and belonging. We have focused on seeking unity instead of division.

Living in these turbulent times let us continue to be guided by the Great Spirit of Love. Let us build a fire of enthusiasm, joy and commitment which will burn brightly as we continue our spiritual questing striving to bring PEACE, LOVE, JOY, BELONGING into our community, our island home, and branching out into our much larger world. May we continue to honour our roots while staying wide open to the Fire of Transformation.

We invite you to participate in the journey and volunteer with us to help keep spiritual questing alive on Gabriola. We’re always looking for people to join our event planning team who work together to vision and create our path each year. We also welcome new Board members, presenters and people to help on event days. And, of course, new memberships . We would love you to leave your name, phone number and email address at a signup sheet at the back table if you feel you would like to join us.

The Spirit does indeed flow freely.