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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Newspaper Article in Millbrook Independent about This Year's Easter Service

Easter Dawn in Tivoli

by the Easter Bunny, a.k.a Devin Kyle

Making my usual rounds, quite busy distributing candy and rainbow colored eggs at this special time of year, I happened across a very interesting ritual celebration happening on the banks of the Hudson River this Easter Sunday.

A group of nearly two dozen men and women, clearly children at hearts, were gathered around a fire in the early hours at the waterfront in Tivoli, NY.  They sang hymns and listened to a sermon, they broke bread and shared wine and their bright spirits were like a beacon to this tired sojourner, after a long night hiding eggs and sweets.  I was traveling by canoe with my seasonal cohort and dear friend, the Goddess Eostre, so we decided to pull up, landed the canoe and joined the congregation.

"We must break the bread in order to share it," the Reverend Kathleen C. Mandeville, M. Div. who was leading the ceremony told us.  Former rector of St. Clement's Episocopal Church in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan has held this site-specific Easter Eucharist for 15 years running, prior to living in Dutchess County. "I also do a winter solstice in the same locale," she said.  "Easter came early this year and it was downright balmy. We've had other years where it was spitting rain and in the 30s, with ice still on the river.  I always hold the service regardless of the weather— ceremony is not always convenient."

The persevering attendees were there at 7:30 AM start time. There is a core group who have come year after year, which has included Bard students and residents from as far as Woodstock and Great Barrington have also attended. Although unorthodox, the participants are treated to an in-depth examination and exploration of the multiple meanings and histories of this holiday.

"Easter is about coming to terms with death as a portal of love," said the Rev. Mandeville pointing out that the word "Eucharist" εὐχαριστία (transliterated, "Eucharistia"), means thanksgiving. For us, it is about seeing how, in our moments of profound loss, when we are down to the bone, it is there in whatever empty tomb we are confronting, it is there in that moment that we have the opportunity to connect to Source and discover abundance."

The Tivoli site has an open view of the Catskills and yet is afforded a semblance of privacy. She chose the venue precisely because of its elemental and natural setting.

"It connects us to the river," Mandeville explained.  "Almost every year a kind of magical appearance occurs. One year a river otter swam right close to the shore, another year a fisherman cast his nets nearby, another two bald eagles flew over so this year we decided to theatricalize that spontaneous appearance by inaugurating the arrival of the Goddess Eostre and the Easter Hare, in full costume, paddling up the river to join our gathering."

Amii Legendre, a talented dancer, choreographer and performer, and member of The Upriver/ Downtown Dance Company, portrayed the lively Goddess Oestre, from which we get the word Easter.

""My good Jewish friend kept talking about Jesus' 'resuscitation', not remembering that it was actually a resurrection. I found her malapropism both funny and apt, since I myself felt truly 'resuscitated' after portraying the Oestre all morning," Legendre shared.  "I was in a canoe on the glassy Hudson, rowing with the Easter Bunny, singing a small waltzy ode to fertility. It was an honor to be invited into a Christian service with some pagan good tidings, truly resuscitating for my spirit.""

The Rev. Mandeville is also proprietor of, a vacation rental, guest house, performance venue located just outside the entrance to Tivoli.  Find out more about her ritual production events at She also writes a blog,, which includes video from the 2008 Easter Service.

"Three years ago my sermon was about coming to terms with the facts of Christ's bodily resurrection, and reflecting on that theological understanding of coming back to life from the perspective of the new evolving spiritual paradigm.  Understanding energy and vibration as the basis of reality.  Every year when I do this service, it's an opportunity to reflect on my own evolving spiritual awareness with this gathered assembly.   Jesus' life and work was about changing the dominant hierarchy of his time.  Christ was a spiritual revolutionary, he was actually living it."


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