Last night Trinity Cathedral hosted our annual Shrove Tuesday Party. This year we chose a Mardi Gras theme (most appropriate for 7 degree winter weather). Instead of pancakes, we had gumbo, jambalaya (meat and vegetarian), and cornbread, jelly donuts and kings cake. We had masks and beads, and we ate and danced to the music of eight-o’clocker Bob Gref’s band, The Dixielanders. Because of the extremely cold weather, we couldn’t use the Cathedral Hall, so we gathered in the cathedral itself. Colorful round tables were set, the band used the altar platform as a stage, and the dinner buffet was in the east transept. But we had one challenge: where would we play our annual game of Hide-and-Go-Seek?
Our Hide-and-Go-Seek tradition started on a Shrove Tuesday many years ago. Walking through the promenade, a parishioner asked me: “Is it all right for kids to be in the cathedral tonight?” I agreed to investigate the situation.
I walked in the cathedral and found a group of young boys playing Hide-and-Go-Seek in the shadows of the nave. The pulpit was the countdown location, and the altar decorated with Mardi gras beads and paper peace doves had been designated home base. Off to the side was an adult stewarding the Labyrinth by candlelight. I sat down next to her, stared at the Labyrinth, glanced at the altar, looked at the boys and said: “Now, this is my idea of church.” She readily agreed, and before I knew it, I was up on my feet to join the game of Hide-and–Go-Seek. A younger boy squealed with delight: “Look, Dean Tracey is playing. Get her.” The next thing I knew I was “It” – up in the pulpit counting to ten and then running through the darkened nave chasing after an eleven old child. A few minutes later, parents began to wander in looking for their children. One-by-one, they too joined the game. Eventually, there were about ten kids and five adults playing Hide and Go Seek in the holy space on the night before Ash Wednesday.
Later that evening, I remembered the game’s homecoming cry, “All ye, all ye out in free,” which in old English means, “All who are out come in for free.” I thought to myself, this is what the church is all about. In fact, this is the good news of the Gospel. All who, for whatever reason, find themselves on the outside, on the margins, on the edge are invited to come in to a place of safety, a place called home – for free.
Last night the kids and I had to decide where to play the game since the Nave of the Cathedral was not available. We marked the boundaries and then determined that the High Altar should be home base. “Why?” I asked, and one youngster shouted, “Because that’s where God lives in this church.” Then we decided that the Baptismal Font should be the starting point. Again, I asked, “Why?” And another youngster answered, “Because that’s where we begin our lives in the church.” And off we went for a rousing game of Hide-and-go-Seek.
With the homecoming cry of “All-ee, all-ee in free,” the altar as home base, and the baptismal font as the starting point, I’m convinced that not only is Hide-and-Go-Seek a good game to play on Shrove Tuesday, but I’m beginning to think it’s a sacrament – a visible sign of God’s invisible grace in this old cathedral.