While closer cooperation between, or even the merger of, parishes is a hot topic in many dioceses these days (including in my home Diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden), the four parishes of The Hague will celebrate their unity this Ascension (17 May) by reviving an old tradition.

‘Dew-stepping’ is my translation of the seemingly unique Dutch verb ‘dauwtrappen’, which refers to early-morning processions, usually on Ascension Day, although they need not be of a religious nature. And although this tradition was mostly practised in the east of the country and the province of North Holland, it is in the western Diocese of Rotterdam, in the Deanery of The Hague to be exact, that a thoroughly religious ‘dew-stepping’ procession is revived to invigorate the unity of The Hague’s parishes.

Starting from four different parish churches between 5:30 and 6:15 am, four separate processions will meet up and form one single gathering at Oud Eijk en Duinen, today a cemetery that contains the ruins of a thirteenth-century chapel (pictured) built by Count William II of Holland, which will be circled by the procession in song and prayer. At this ruined chapel, where the traditional devotion to the Holy Cross was reinstated in 1998, Father Ad van der Helm, Dean of The Hague, will offer a Mass at 7:15am.

Too often mergers and other parish politics are treated like the politics of any larger or smaller company. The identity of a parish as a community of faithful within the Church is too often ignored when these matters are discussed. But, in my opinion, if the unity of faithful, be they of one parish or another, is expressed in devotion, prayer, song and the celebration of the Eucharist, it has truly fertile ground to grow in.

Photo credit: Hans Erren/Wikipedia

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