For those who enjoy the experience of Jubilee!'s celebrations — complete with poets, singers, dancers, stories, insights, tears and laughter, playfulness and silent introspection — how it all began will be no surprise.
One Sunday night in May 1984, Rev. Howard Hanger (who was then on the staff of Central United Methodist Church in Asheville ) gathered together a small group of people in the church's basement. Among them were a dancer, a storyteller, a couple of theatre people, a poet, several musicians, two graphic artists, and a few “normal” folks to balance things out.
In Howard's job description was the assignment to “develop new ministries.” That was pretty daring of the church, given Howard's reputation for being wildly creative and, to put it mildly, a tad unorthodox.
He'd written what he titled “Seeds of Celebration,” eight different themes with accompanying quotes from the scripture. He presented these to the group and they spent the next several hours brainstorming ways in which these Seeds could be presented in dance, song, poetry, and other expressive ways. They knew from the outset that they wanted the whole process to be as participatory as possible. Before the night was over, they had outlined plans for celebrating each of the Seeds.
The first Jubilee! celebrations
Just two weeks later, Central United Methodist Church opened its basement doors for the first of the series of creative ventures dubbed “Jubilee! Celebrations” (from the ancient Hebrew celebration of Jubilee, a time of restoration, balance, and freedom — a time in which everyone can find their home).
Throughout that first summer, about 75 people attended each of the eight Jubilee! Celebrations. The celebrations were so popular that they were repeated each summer for the next five years. Throughout, the number of people attending continued to grow. The impetus and interest were soon there for the celebrations to continue year-round.
Starting out on our own
It was in 1989 that the Jubilee! Community was incorporated. We found an old nightclub (on reflection, that somehow seems quite appropriate) in downtown Asheville . After some renovation of the location, Jubilee! Community held its first independent celebration in August. Our numbers continued to increase and it was soon obvious that we needed a larger space, someplace we could truly call our own.
So ten years after we started, we moved into the building at 46 Wall Street (it's a unique building with two addresses: the one on Wall Street and the lower entrance on the other side at 101 Patton Avenue ). The location has a long and storied history. It was first a livery stable for the original Battery Park Hotel and contained a blacksmith's shop. Over the years, it was the Southern Express Company, American Ryder Express Company, Whitmore Motor Sales, and one time was the home of the Union Bus Terminal.
We purchased the building in 2000, fully aware by then of the structure's faults and limitations. We knew from experience and observation that it was desperately in need not just of repair, but of a complete renovation to make it safe for everyone and for our planet. All the work on our now earth friendly building was finally completed in March 2006.
How we celebrate
The Jubilee! Community Sunday celebrations today average 700 to 800 people each week. With this growth has come the formation of a series of Ministry teams to put into compassionate action the love and faith we feel every day.
Click here to go to Team Page
From the very beginning, we have celebrated in a circle, reflective of our community (which is decidedly not pyramidal). We sit in a circle at Jubilee! for five main reasons:
It's the most ancient seating pattern for ritual that we have. It's how our ancestors did it.
It enables us all to see each other and not just the folks up front.
It puts our sacred objects in the middle to remind us that we're all sacred.
It's the shape of the universe: The shape of mother earth, our orbit, the sun, our galaxy, tear drops, rain drops, our cells, our DNA.
It makes the job of setting up chairs much more challenging.
Howard continues as our Minister of Ritual and Spiritual Guidance, and the celebrations are always lively and frequently and surprisingly spontaneous! They also continue to be highly participatory, true to the notion that we experience that the Divine is in all things.
The Sunday celebrations follow the seasons and the corresponding Four Paths (from the works of Matthew Fox and Meister Eckhart):
- Summer–Via Positiva
- Fall–Via Negativa
- Winter–Via Creativa
- Spring–Via Transformativa.
Our celebrations honor all of creation as an “original blessing” and Matthew Fox concept of creation spirituality, a movement that seeks to integrate the wisdom of western spirituality and global indigenous cultures with the emerging scientific understanding of the universe and the passionate creativity of art.
We honor all religions and all people. Everyone is welcome. To fully understand, you need to experience Jubilee!. You are invited and so welcome to do so.