Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Exile and the Kingdom; Art and the Nuns

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Exile and the Kingdom; Art and the Nuns

Article excerpt

There are many forms of loneliness, and priests, being human, are subject to all of them. Spare a thought, then, for Fr. Henry Williams of Sierra Leone looking out at the white faces of the congregation in St. Andrew's Cathedral, Victoria, British Columbia. As the music started, so did Williams' hands -- but discreetly -- keeping time to the music.

It was his first Mass in his new life.

What must it be like, wondered Arthur Jones, NCR's editor-at-large, to undergo such dramatic culture shock: to a cold climate, to such sedate worship and reticence in daily life compared with the exuberance on which he was reared?

"I already miss the drums," Williams told Jones later. "And the dancing and the hands."

Three months earlier, the priest was hiding the bush as Sierra Leone's civil war a went through another wild phase. The bishops of Sierra Leone and Victoria, old acquaintances, agreed to a transfer, and the priest from Bonthe Island is now on Vancouver Island.

It will take time for the people "to get used to my accent and my style of delivery," Williams told Jones, "and me to theirs. But we'll do it."

To the congregation he said, "Don't make me be lonely. Come up and introduce yourself to me on the street. That's what we do where I come from."

That, and sing and clap hands and dance their way through liturgies.

Once upon a time, Christianity and the arts went hand in hand throwing light on each other. More recently the words almost add up to an oxymoron. …

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