Twelfth Night celebrated for the fourth time at Gloria Dei

Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2012, 1:00 am
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By Leon Lagerstam,
ROCK ISLAND — Crown pork roasts will be on the dinner table and some "hams" may be on stage at an Epiphany, or "Twelfth Night," celebration on Sunday, Jan. 6, at Gloria Dei Presbyterian Church.

The fourth annual event will include vespers, worship, a feast, English mummers and mystery plays, and a rapper sword dance.

Musicians are invited to a 4:30 p.m. rehearsal at the church, at 4200 12th St., Rock Island. After learning songs to be played, the musicians will lead the 5 p.m. vespers service, which will feature Scripture, readings, prayers and liturgy from the Celtic tradition.

A feast will follow at 5:45 p.m., and a "Twelfth Night" party will get under way at 7 p.m. Everything but the feast will be free.

The meal will cost $10, and reservations for it are due by 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 5, according to pastor, the Rev. Drew Nagle. Because of the church's size, it's limited to about 70 people. No reservations are needed for the vespers service or after-dinner party, he said. For information, call the church at (309) 788-8986

The event is a mixture of faith and secular traditions, Rev. Nagle said.

"A lot of folks may have grown up in churches and communities with these traditions and have been missing them," he said. "Modern society also has gone to starting Christmas in mid-October and ending it on Christmas Day. But we're trying to lift up the old tradition that Christmas isn't just an after-thought by now, but that it goes through Epiphany, which is the actual 12th Day of Christmas."

The holy day of Epiphany is believed to be the day the Three Wise Men, or Magi, gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child, recognizing Him as "God's special one," Rev. Nagle said.

Commemorating that "manifestation of Christ as the Messiah" plays a big part in the Gloria Dei celebration, but other secular traditions give the event a "fuller meaning," he said.

Having performers and audience members act together makes for a more powerful presentation and connects everyone together in a more meaningful manner, Rev. Nagle said.

Previous attempts at lining up casts of performers for the plays weren't overly successful, he said, so he put lines from different characters on index cards and recruits people to perform impromptu parts. It adds to the fun of "seeing a relative or friend take a script and ham it up," he said.

One of the plays to be performed is titled "The Magi and Herod." It's a mystery told in a modern-English translation, Rev. Nagle said, adding that it touches on the threat King Herod placed on Jesus' life, describes the Three Wise Men's visit, and "reveals the mystery of God's work in our lives."

The mummer's play is derived from traditional street theater in Great Britain that opens with an address from Father Christmas and a fight between a noble knight and St. George, during which one is killed, Rev. Nagle said. A "quack" doctor revives the fallen fighter, and action shifts to the sword dance that involves five people connected by two-handled rapper swords.

The feast's menu also features several traditional items."Whenever you pull a crown pork roast out these days, there's already a sense of festivity," Rev. Nagle said. "We also will have traditional Kings cakes."

A large dry bean or a creche figure will be hidden in a cake, and whoever draws it out will be named king for the day, he said.

"We'll also have a blessing of the lentils and some Epiphany carol singing," Rev. Nagle said.

Beneficiaries of the event will be groups working with homeless or displaced people. The place2b drop-in center for homeless youth, King Harvest Ministries homeless shelters and the local World Relief office that works with immigrants to the Quad-Cities area will be the key recipients.

Supporting the homeless was chosen, he said, because, "the birth of Jesus is, in part, a story of a homeless family."


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