Historic Half Moon Bay

Photos by Sister Jeannette Filthaut

BY SISTER PAULINE LALLY

For about 20 summers now, I have been involved with the historic Half Moon Sunday evening services in the St. Lawrence River in a bay shaped as a crescent moon on Bostwich Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River not too far from Gananoque.

This service has been active for over 100 years. It began in 1887 when a group of summer cottagers began to meet on Sunday evenings in the Bay for prayer, song and scripture.  Popularity of the meetings soon attracted campers for miles around as well as folks from Gananoque.  In July and August this idyllic outdoor cathedral – the tallest in the world – is crowded with worshippers in boats of all kinds inspired by the romantic setting, Scripture, hymns, prayers and ecumenical guest speakers and organists.  Hymn books and offertory collection is ministered by young people in two red canoes.

David Wallace of Boston, Mass., owner of the property died in 1904, and bequeathed Half Moon Bay to be held in trust as a place of worship.  A wonderful group of hard-working, committed cottagers from both countries (Canada and USA), who make the 1000 Islands their summer homes, as well as some folks from Gananoque, have formed a charitable Half Moon Bay Foundation which keep this wonderful ministry a float.  Thanks to this great group of people an excellent sound system and portable keyboard has been obtained to enhance the service.

One ought to make it a summer excursion some Sunday in July and August (first two weeks only) by arriving at the Gananoque dock by 3-ish and be water-taxied over to the Bay for the service at 4pm.

Sister Pauline Lally's Speech

How good it is to be together in this holy spot once again and to share with you once again the Mystery of God’s presence, not only in this beautiful sacred space but in the sacred Scripture as well.

The Word of God in scripture is not just ancient history. The Word is the Living Word that has the power to touch our lives afresh.

Well, let’s take a look at the 3 readings from Scripture today. Does something touch you or stir in your soul afresh? Is there a message for us? Is there a connection running through these readings that both comfort and/or challenge us today?

I think perhaps it might be the refrain of relationship.

The first reading is an interesting love story. To begin with, Abraham must have had a trusting relationship with his servant, whom he considers reliable and faithful. For the servant is charged with a mission: to choose from among Abraham’s kinfolk a suitable bride for his only son, Isaac. So, this is important work. It demands a trustworthy diplomat with a sensitive awareness.

Are you such a person in your work?

The servant devises a plan and lo and behold young Rebecca fits right into it with her generosity.

After thanking God for “Mission Accomplished,” and executing negotiations with Rebecca’s father who interestingly asks Rebecca, “Will you go with this man?”  Did you notice that he does not tell; he asks his daughter.  So, there must have been a respectful father-daughter relationship there.

What about our family relationships? Respectful, loving or complicated?

Rebeca’s answer is free, and maybe a bit risky. After all, she does not know Isaac. But she is willing and maybe even determined to take a chance on this arranged marriage. 

So, on receiving her family’s blessing, off she goes with her companions and the trusted servant on an adventure of love, on the adventure of relating and all that that entails. 

In due course Isaac takes Rebecca as his wife and he loves her, “… and she comforted him after the death of his mother,” Sara, says Scripture. A lovely relationship of support and care. Be grateful if you have such relationships

The second reading from the Song of Songs follows nicely after the first. It is an exquisite poetic springtime rhapsody of mutual love. The couple are betrothed in love. 

This suggests not only the love of this couple, like Isaac and Rebecca, or any couple for that matter, but also, the exalted spirited loving relationship of God with God’s people, and God’s singular union of love with each one of us. Quite an intimate relationship of love there!

But how on earth does the 3rd reading fit in with the other two readings?

Well, as you know, relationships can be tricky.  They can get complicated. Our darling Rebecca of the first reading became a devious woman as she took advantage of her blind husband in his old age and secured the blessing of the firstborn from the Esau to her favourite son, Jacob.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew. It’s a catch-22 situation in which one can’t win. Happens sometimes in relationships if we’re not careful.

We played the flute for you, and you didn’t dance;
We wailed and you did not mourn.
John came neither eating or drinking, and they say, ’He has a demon;’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say,
‘Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’”

John the Baptist and Jesus can’t win by such folks with their judgmental attitudes. And neither can we in similar situations. But time will prove where wisdom lies.

Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

One just has to be patient. Truth will out. God can turn every situation into a providential goodness eventually.

In the last part of that Matthean Scripture passage we get a peek at Jesus’ intimate grace-filled relationship with his Father as well as his loving relationship with each one of us. 

“Come to me” echoes of “Arise, my dove”, ” Listen, my Beloved” from the 2nd reading of the Canticle. “Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens,” tired out from living with fear and anxiety, overwork and tension, or shame and guilt, or sorrow and grief – “and I will refresh you,” says our God.

Connect with me “and I will give you rest.” Come to me in your heart and soul and REST. Relax; then do it again. Breathe gently – in and out.  It is the very breath of God that we are breathing in that sustains us.

Once I made a retreat with Dom Helder Camara, retired Archbishop of Brazil. He started by saying, “God is not in you….” And I thought to myself who is this man?  What is he declaring? “No,” he said, “You are IN God.”  And I thought … as fish is in water. Amazing!  We are IN God!

This all-pervasive presence in which we live and breathe and have our being unites us with all reality – one another, the water, the sky, the rock. We are ONE. We are all blessed in this one unity, this one reality. We are united as ONE in the Mystery of God from whom we came and shall return.

So let us brush our concerns off our body and throw them to the universe. That’s what they do in therapeutic touch. The Universe can handle it. God can take care of it.

Then, with this ever-ancient/ever-new awareness of oneness, we can take up the yoke again. We just need to learn how to handle that yoke of fear and anxiety, shame and guilt, sorrow and grief, overwork and tension.

How did Jesus handle his burdens? I think he did so by taking time out. Leaving the guys for a while. Going off to be with himself and his Father.

And that’s what we have to do, as well, go apart before we fall apart. I know if I haven’t spent some quality time alone in prayer, or quiet reflection, I can be short-tempered, impatient, easily frustrated, worried and anxious even nasty. Because I didn’t get my priorities straight, I didn’t intentionally connect with the spirit-part of me – where the Divine Indwells.

Once a father told me that one day his young daughter, noticing that her father was in a bad mood, simply asked him, as only a small child can, “Daddy, have you prayed today yet?”  He told me, “Her words caught me up short.”

Come apart before you fall apart.

In Biblical times, I understand, the farmer would yoke 2 oxen together or yoke himself to an ox and they’d do the work together, making the work a little less burdensome. And that’s what Jesus is willing to do with us – to yoke himself with us – and together do the work, and together we get on with the life to which we are called.

Summer with its accompanying free days is a great time to relax, to take it easy, to breathe, to find some quality time to connect with family and friends, and with nature and especially with the One who’s been holding and connecting with us all our lives.

There we will find the very core of our being. Jn.14:22

There God make his home with us!

Believe it – it’s the greatest relationship of all!