The Power of Yes

by | Apr 5, 2018


Written by the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, Latino Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington

The Great Vigil of Easter is, for me, the Crown Jewel of Christian liturgies. On this night, Christians around the world gather to hear the stories of our faith. In a liturgy filled with symbol and mystery, we pass over the mystical borderlands from darkness to light, bondage to freedom from death to life. This year, several of our multicultural congregations of Central Montgomery County decided to collaborate on a bilingual, multicultural Vigil. St. Mary Magdalene, whose congregation represents thirty-one nations, and  Misa Magdalena, its newly planted sister congregation representing nine Spanish-speaking nations, extended the invitation to host.

The planning began, a little late. Five clergy committed. The reality of a busy season set in. Finding the energy for an extra service in Holy Week can be a challenge, so it was not without doubt, uncertainty and perhaps even some fear that we kept moving towards Holy Saturday. Conveying our ancient stories in fresh ways that connect with our lives is not easy. When you add multicultural and bilingual dynamics to the mix, it can seem a daunting assignment.

I realized I had to relinquish visions of Vigils past, and see what the Holy Spirit had in mind for this one. The Spirit did not fail us. Seventy people from at least six congregations gathered. Grace and good cheer abounded. The fire was lit, the Paschal candle carried aloft, and the assembled delighted in the Light of Christ. The stories were interpreted with amazing creativity, so that tales told transcended borders of language, culture and time. They penetrated our hearts.

The Easter moment arrived; the lights went up, our Alleluias were sung. The Rev. David Wacaster and Canon Paula Clark stepped forward to lead us in the Renewal of our Baptismal Vows. Paula asked, “Crees en Jesucristo?” Before anybody could respond with the creedal sentences, seven-year-old Ricardo shouted a resounding “YES!” The congregation erupted into laughter and applause. The Holy Spirit had broken through.

The mystery of the evening still lingers for me. This collaboration in ministry brought together a diverse group of Episcopalians intent on sharing their gifts in the telling of God’s story in liturgy. The labor came as a gift of love. Hearts were opened to the understanding that God’s story is our story too.

Strengthened for the journey, we continue on, following the One who calls us beloved, the One who guides us still through troubled waters towards a land of promise. Why was the night at St. Mary Magdalene unlike any other? In part because a seven-year old child proclaimed our Easter message with a compelling and eloquent “Yes!”