JUBILEE: THEN AND NOW
Jubilee – a wonderful word! Most commonly, we connect it with anniversaries – silver and golden jubilees. But the original meaning is far deeper. You can find its beginnings in Leviticus 25, in the Hebrew Bible. In ancient Israel, a sabbatical year (related to the weekly Sabbath) was mandated for every seventh year. After seven times seven, a sabbatical of sabbaticals was observed, the fiftieth year, the year of Jubilee.
Four important things marked the year of Jubilee (which, so far as we know, was never observed—which leaves it up to us!): all debts were forgiven (not paid, forgiven); all slaves were freed; the land had sacred rest; and everyone got to go home, to the place of their ancestors. Jesus picked up on the Jubilee theme in his first sermon, which you can find in Luke 4:14-30, in the New Testament. There he calls it “the year of the Lord’s favour.”
It’s very easy to apply this to ourselves, isn’t it! By the time we reach our fiftieth year, many of us have accumulated debts of many kinds, enslaved ourselves to habits of many kinds, abused or neglected our sacred “land,” the body; and lived in various kinds of exile. My own fiftieth year was the most difficult year of my life (to date!). But when I realized that, like it or not, it was also my year of Jubilee, that changed my feelings about it entirely. Later, when two organizations I worked with were joining together and needed a new name, I suggested Jubilee, but without sharing its personal meaning for me. The name was accepted, and the Jubilee Community came into being.
In its original form, the Jubilee Community came to an end in the early nineties; but through the Jubilee programs (see below), a new Jubilee Community has come into being, a dispersed community of spiritual practice and hope consisting of all the staff and alumnae/alumni of these programs. Jubilee programs for spiritual formation and the training of soulfriends / spiritual directors now exist in BC, Winnipeg, and London, Ontario. The network which maintains these programs, and of which all staff and alums are members, is called Jubilee Associates.
And here’s the JA mission statement: Jubilee Associates is a Canadian leadership co-operative in spiritual formation and spiritual direction, comprising the staffs and alumni/ae of the Jubilee programs, and rooted in the Christian contemplative tradition. We are committed to the offering of experiential programs through which participants may deepen their experience of spirited living and identify their gifts for spiritual guidance. We know ourselves called, both personally and societally, to live lives which incarnate the love of God, self, others and the Earth.
I am astonished to acknowledge that 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Jubilee Program, its own Silver Jubilee (I had retired as director in 2011.) There was a glorious celebration of this anniversary at the end of May 2013 in Vancouver. (You can hear my sermon of June 2 at St Andrew’s-Wesley United Church if you click on the link on the Publications page.)
For further information on the program itself, contact the magnificent Lois Huey-Heck, who succeeded me as director, and/or have a look at our websites: www.jubileeassociates.ca and www.pacificjubilee.ca
And a PS. Not only is 49 a year of special meaning, so, according to a recent article in the Guardian, are all years ending in 9: 29, 39 and so on. Here’s the link to Oliver Burkeman’s article, “Countdown to big birthdays” -www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/29/countdown-to-big-birthdays