Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Community Created Family

When I explain that I want to create a church where worship consists of interactive art and social participation games, people wonder what that might actually look like.  I think my wedding is a perfect illustration.  I got married in August.  Elana (the bride) and I wanted to create an event that embodied what this wedding meant to us: the support of our community in the continuing creation of our new family.

The whole thing took place in a park.  Elana and I each started off in tents, whose front flap had a basket attached to a string and pulley.

The ceremony started off with a Rube Goldberg machine that conveyed two kickballs representing Elana and me.
(machine post deployment)

But as compared to most Rube Goldberg machines, ours quickly became composed our friends, to represent the people who had carried us throughout our lives

The human machine culminated by dropping the kickballs in the baskets that opened the flaps to our tents.  Then Elana and I walked down through a labyrinth in which our friends and family made the walls.  The labyrinth was designed so that Elana and I entered the labyrinth at separate locations, met in the middle, and walked out as a couple.  The people were also organized in chronological order, so that our parents and family started at the beginning of the labyrinth, our college friends were in the middle, and our most recent friends were at the end.  The result was that we literally walked through the people who have made the path that led us to where we are today.

As we exited the labyrinth, we were guided by more of our friends to the pastor, who asked them and us why we had come.  The answer:  to create a new family, the McKelahan Family (formed by merging our last names of McKernan and Colahan).  The pastor asked who we call upon to help us with this task.

First we called upon our parents.  We had asked each parent to bring a piece of rope or cord that in someway symbolized their relationship to their child.  At this point in the ceremony, one by one, each parent presented their cord to their child, explained what it meant, and then tied it to the cord of another parent.  By the end, Elana and I were surrounded by a circle of bonds that our parents had tied together.  The parents laid this circle on the ground around us as the foundation of our new family.

Next we called upon the rest of our family, our friends, all of creation, and finally God, to support us, lay hands on us, and bless us in the creation of the family.

In the center of this circle of relationships, we exchanged vows, rings, and were declared a new family.

Then the party started.
In keeping with the theme of participatory creation, we had lots of interactive art.

A hula-hoop making station

A quilt making station where guests could cut interesting shapes and figures out of fabric to design a quilt that Elana's mother will sew together.

A typewriter so that people could write us poems, or other literary works of greatness:

Empty picture frames hanging from trees with costumes and polaroid cameras with film so that people could create a photo-booth.

Several audience participation plays written by guests

A bowling alley in which people could smash confetti-filled symbols of marriage over contact paper to create a beautiful (or at least colorful) collage even as our expectations get destroyed.

And of course, dancing.  We had contra dancing with a caller.  The benefit of this is that instructions are explained as we danced and it is more of a group than partner dance.  This way, no one would be left out for lack of knowledge of partner.

We even roped our guests into helping us clean up!

The event was truly an act of collaborative art, games, and community that celebrated the relationships that are the ground and source of our being.  In a word, it was worship.


rachel said...

this sounds so great and i'm glad that my husband and i have another set of friends who have merged their last names! haxton plus medema = haxtema! we got married in august too - ours was outdoors and tons of fun as well with square dancing... so we share an anniversary month and celebration as well. congratulations and thanks for sharing. i LOVE the labyrinth idea.

Ellen said...

thanks for letting those of us who couldn't be there have some sense of what a wonderful day and celebration this was! Now please--tell us about the ordination!

Ben McKelahan said...

Rachel, Elana and I were really pleased that our names could be combined in a reasonable way. We have some friends who'd like to, but aren't so lucky. If you think of a good combination for Snyder and Torborg, let me know (Synborg has been rejected). Also, I'm glad you like the human labyrinth; I highly recommend it and I think it could be used well in other settings.

Ellen, working on it!