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“I invite you to sing a song that resurrects hope within you,” the Rev. Kimberly Jackson, chaplain and vicar of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center, Emmaus House Chapel, Atlanta http://absalomjones.org/said in her June 30 sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

Bishop Wendell Gibbs of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan presided at the Eucharist.  

The following is the text of the sermon:

The Rev. Kimberly Jackson

A few years ago, there was a man scheduled to be executed in the state of Georgia named Troy Davis. Many people across Georgia and indeed, the country, believed that Troy was innocent. And so, people organized to try to halt his execution. My students, young black men and women from Clark Atlanta, Morehouse, and Spelman colleges were among those who literally took to the streets in protest over the fact that our state was willing to kill a potentially innocent man.

My students skipped some classes, but they skipped classes to scale bridges to drop down banners, to sign thousands of petitions, and they chanted themselves hoarse. For many of them, this was the hardest that they’d ever worked, and the loudest that they’d ever protested on behalf of someone who they’d never even met.

Now, I don’t know how often you all get to spend time with college students like the ones we have right here, but if you have - you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say the energy that they brought to the space was electrifying. They believed that they could make a difference. They believed that they could save lives. Their energy was contagious and invigorating… their energy gave me hope.

Despite all of their efforts as many of you know, Troy Davis was executed.

The following day, we gathered at the Episcopal chapel to process and to plan next steps. In the midst of the conversations and the questions about the why and the how, this student, Kareem, a quiet young sophomore, in the midst of the chatter, he raised his hand and he said, “Y’all we need to sing.”

Now, admittedly, I had a nice agenda laid out, and it did not include singing. Like good Anglicans, though, we began with prayer.

But, thankfully, I listened to Kareem and I gave him the floor. He stood and with trembling voice he began singing James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Out of all of the songs that a nineteen-year-old boy from Baltimore could choose from, that young man picked that 100 year-old hymn — and as my southern grandmama used to say, “that chile sang dat song.” And as he sang — as he retold the story of a people who have tread a path through the blood of the slaughtered… as he sang a “song full of the hope that the dark past has taught us,” we all began to feel the hope, we all began to feel God’s spirit revive within us. We started to remember that yes, yes, another world is possible and just maybe, maybe with God’s help we can still make a difference.

——

Sisters and brothers in Christ, our gathering here — this 78th Convention of The Episcopal Church has been incredible! It has been amazing. We’ve seen history made in the Supreme Court’s decisions of last week. We’ve made history here in the election of our Church’s first Black Presiding Bishop! Friends, the energy in this place is exciting, invigorating and I have so much hope for us, for the Church, our nation and indeed world!

Friends, we serve a mighty God! And we, we are so blessed so abundantly blessed, to be a part of God’s Church!

In the midst of all of this excitement and good news, we have chanted and cheered, shed tears of joy, and some of us have sang ourselves hoarse. These feel like happy times in our Church. So in many ways, today’s readings just don’t seem to quite fit.

Remember the gospel reading? John is calling people snakes and warning about the wrath to come!  And then the Epistle has all of this militaristic language about putting on armor so that we can fight. Fight? We’ve been fighting in this Church for decades. We don’t want to fight. These are happy times. But in truth, if we’ve learned anything at all about last week, we know that while many of us were celebrating marriage equality, we were also grieving the racist murders of the Charleston 9.

Now, I know this may make me sound like I’m not an Episcopalian, but friends here’s the truth, “the spiritual forces of evil” that Paul talks about are real. We are wrestling against “rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers in this present darkness.” Those powers, those systems of oppression, and authorities - they have many names! They are named: white supremacy, sexism, trans* and homophobia and racism. We are called to find strength to shield ourselves and others from the fiery darts of classism, environmental injustices, and xenophobia…. We called to reject the notion that some people’s lives are of greater value than others.

So, yes we do celebrate, but we also must fight. For as the young people at Black Lives Matter rallies have reminded us, it is our duty to fight. And I know, I know that I’ve rattled off a long list of -isms and phobias that seem way too big for us to ever defeat. But my friends, I flew out here from Stone Mountain, Georgia with some good news. Friends, the good news is that we do not fight alone.  We fight against the forces of darkness with ourselves together. We fight as one. We fight with the power of the Holy Spirit providing us with strength and wisdom.

With the power of our Almighty God, we will tear down the sexism that plagues this very Church. With the strength that comes from standing in truth and righteousness, we will destroy patriarchy, white supremacy and racism.  We can and we will.

Beloved, I’ll admit this is hardwork. But most holy work is. Most holy work is hard. What I learned from that young man named Kareem, I learned that when doing hard-holy-work, it’s really important to stop to sing. Now, of course, I’m not inviting you to sing just any ole song… No… That young man from Baltimore taught me to sing the songs that remind of us that the Lord is our strength and our refuge - that the Lord is our Light and our Salvation.

So friends, as we prepare to continue in the struggle, I invite you to find your song. I invite you to sing that song that inspires, that enlivens, that gives you the courage to run on. And don’t just sing it in the shower! Sing in the car and hum it the grocery store. Share your song. Share it with friends and family in times of joy and in heartache. Sing the song that reminds you that we are all just leaning on the everlasting Arms.

My friends, I invite you to sing a song that resurrects hope within you.

Amen.

 

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

The video services of the daily Eucharist during General Convention 2015 have been produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

 

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

General Convention: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Diocese of Utah: http://www.episcopal-ut.org/

Salt Palace Convention Center: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/salt-palace-convention-center/

 

#‎GC78

“I invite you to sing a song that resurrects hope within you,” the Rev. Kimberly Jackson, chaplain and vicar of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center, Emmaus House Chapel, Atlanta http://absalomjones.org/said in her June 30 sermon to the 78th General...

“There are times when the weight of our historic experience seems like it is unbearable,” Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America said in his June 29 sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. “And yet, it is precisely at such moments that Christ can become most powerfully present to us.”

 

Presiding at the Eucharist was Bishop Mike Klusmeyer of West Virginia 

Preacher: Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America 

The following is the text of the sermon.

 

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian

Before beginning my formal remarks, I would like to say what a privilege it is to be among you today, on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, for this Community Eucharist. I would especially like to thank Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, your Primate and Presiding Bishop, a great church leader, and my dear friend, for generously extending this invitation. 

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 

The readings for today—from the Book of Ezekiel, the Psalms, Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, and the Gospel of John—seem on the surface to have very little in common.  But on reflection, there is a common thread weaving them together.  Each of the readings deals, in its own way, with the idea of “exile” or “displacement.”

The prophet Ezekiel offers an image—which our Lord Jesus would also later take up—of a shepherd gathering in his scattered, lost sheep: seeking them out in the distant countries, returning them to their own land:

“I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away,” Ezekiel says of his urgent mission.  “I will bind up that which was broken, and strengthen that which was sick” (Ez 34:16).

Psalm 87, on the other hand, is a hymn to a lost homeland, sung by those who remember, with pride and nostalgia, the now-distant land of their birth:

“Of Zion it shall be said, ‘This man and that one was born in her,’ …The Lord shall count in the records of the people, that there, this man was born” (Ps 87:5-6).

St. Paul, writing to Timothy, speaks of a different kind of displacement: the exile from human society that comes from his unjust imprisonment.  He knows he will never return to the world he knew; but in one of the most famous passages in all of Scripture, Paul confides to us his faith that his exile is ultimately the doorway to a greater reality:

“I am ready now;” he writes; “the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.  For the future, a crown of righteousness is waiting, which the Lord shall give me at that day.  And not only to me, but to all who love him” (2 Tm 4:6-8).

Thoughts about exile have held a special meaning for me this year, as a bishop of the Armenian Church.  For it was exactly one hundred years ago that my people became exiles from their historic homeland, in the cataclysm that would eventually be known as the Armenian Genocide.

 

* * *

The Ottoman Turks launched this deadly plan to transform their disintegrating, multi-ethnic empire into a homogeneous state.  Their vision of a new Turkish state covered territory which included the Armenian homeland, so the decision was made to annihilate every Armenian man, woman and child through deportation, starvation and wholesale murder.

The genocide of more than one and a half million Armenians began in 1915.  When it was over, two out of three Armenians living in that country had perished—the victims of a systematic extermination of Turkey’s Armenian population.

In this manner, our people were effectively eliminated from their homeland of nearly three thousand years.  Even the memory of the Armenian nation was intended for obliteration: churches and monasteries were desecrated, and small children—the seed of the future—were snatched from their parents, renamed, and farmed out to be raised as Turks. More than 2600 churches and monasteries were destroyed.  More than 4000 clergy were killed.

Sadly, such brutality set the tone for the 20th century: a tone which would be heard again in the Nazi death camps, in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Rwanda and Darfur.  And it echoes in our own days, in the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq, in Africa, and other desperate places.

* * *

As you can imagine, these thoughts have weighed heavily on me throughout this year, both as a leader of the Armenian Church, and as one of many exiles from our lost homeland.  There are times when the weight of our historic experience seems like it is unbearable.
 

And yet, it is precisely at such moments that Christ can become most powerfully present to us.  For myself, during this Genocide Centennial year, I felt His presence in the incredible outpouring of support and encouragement Armenians have received, from friends, co-religionists, national governments, and even from people we had never met before.  All of them asserted their solidarity, their understanding, their recognition and appreciation of what the Armenian people endured.

Like you have done today, this outpouring of good will made us realize as never before that we are not alone.  That the burden of pain and exile was not something my people alone have experienced.  Others share that burden with us, in different ways.  And most of all, our Lord shares that burden with all His children.

That is the deep meaning today’s scriptures hold for us.  Through them, we are led to the realization that we are all exiles: scattered sheep, lost in a wilderness.  Displaced souls longing for our true home.  Prisoners awaiting release, knowing that we will be led where we do not want to go.

And yet we are also assured that a crown of glory is awaiting us.  For the truth is that wherever we may live, Christ’s faithful followers—just like their master—have no real home upon this earth.  “Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” said our Lord Jesus (Mt 8:20).  Our true homeland is God’s kingdom.  And human life is the exile’s journey of return.  Along that path we will experience all of life’s drama: its sorrow and pain, but also its joys and beauty.  And all the while, we await the sound of our shepherd’s voice—the Shepherd who has never ceased searching for us, to gather us in, and deliver us home.

I want to conclude by thanking you all for sharing in our journey this year.  Your generosity, your encouragement, and your abiding friendship are great blessings for myself, my church, and for my people.  May God bless you, and may He guide all His children to their true home in His eternal kingdom.  Amen.

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

The video services of the daily Eucharist during General Convention 2015 have been produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

General Convention: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Diocese of Utah: http://www.episcopal-ut.org/

Salt Palace Convention Center: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/salt-palace-convention-center/

 

#‎GC78

“There are times when the weight of our historic experience seems like it is unbearable,” Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America said in his June 29 sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal...

“Talitha, cum.  Get up, girl – and boy, and woman, and man – get up and dance!” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the gathering in her June 28 sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

The following is the text of the sermon

General Convention
June 28, 2015

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

                “Talitha, cum.”  Get up, girl, you’re not dead yet.  Jesus might just as well be speaking to this church.  This event comes after an aging woman is healed of her hemorrhage when she finds the courage to reach out and touch Jesus’ robe.

                Can we hear these remarkable healing stories as speaking to the body of Christ often called Mother church?  The story is told twice to drive home the point – if we don’t understand the child’s healing, perhaps we will recognize the woman made whole.

                We have lived for too long like that shamed and bleeding woman.  She’s had to endure finger-waggers blaming her for her own illness.  Anger and anxiety over membership loss in this church has frequently prompted finger-waggers to use that image of unstoppable hemorrhage – and it’s been going on for almost exactly 12 years, since we began to tell the truth about who we were and are and are meant to be.  We have consulted plenty of ecclesiastical doctors, without much relief – until we began to find the temerity to reach out and touch Jesus’ robe.  It’s the same Temple-filling hem we heard about on Friday.[1]  The bleeding began to be staunched when we found the courage to reach out and touch the face of God, to see God at work in new contexts, and to have the confidence to claim our experience of the divine presence.

                We don’t know why the woman in the gospel story was bleeding, though we are learning plenty about how women are mistreated and abused all across the world.  Part of our healing as a church has been the willingness to tell the truth about that.  Teaching about human trafficking and rape as a weapon of war has begun to restore bleeding women to wholeness.  Tending the rainbow bruises and wounds from all sorts of violence has brought new life into this body.

                Like too many girls in the world today, the daughter of Jairus is not referred to by her own name.  She is known only in relation to her father, whose name means “God enlightens.”  He pleads her cause, asking Jesus to lay hands on her, so she might be healed and live.  Many have prayed similarly for this Church, and this gathering is a sacramental expression of that plea.  Girls and boys at camp in the Diocese of Dallas get it – they’ve made a video for us, with illustrated prayers in Spanish and English:  “guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it.”  They finish it by saying, “we believe in you!”[2]

                This gospel story begins[3] with Jesus crossing the sea to the other side.  Jesus has just left Gentile country where he’s delivered a man from near death – a man who has been living in the graveyard, possessed by a Legion of demons.  Jesus comes back to the Jewish side of the lake and heals this girl and woman.  The good shepherd is at work healing everywhere – and everyone.  The story cannot be contained, even when he tries to shush people.

                The healing and enlivening of this body have come in the same way, by crossing over into new territory.  We saw it in the aftermath of Katrina, as people from across the spectrum of this body went to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to muck out houses and build new homes.  We’ve seen daughters rising and growing in Brazil and the Philippines and elsewhere, as relationships change to ones of greater equality – we are now sister churches, interdependent parts of the body, rather than parent and child.   

                We are beginning to see new life in the bleeding one as we confront the violence around us, particularly the war that guns are unleashing on the innocent in these United States.  We will see the body rise as we address the death and violence that continues to be perpetrated here and around the world.  The grassroots peacemakers in the West Bank are finding the courage to reach out and touch the robed image of God in their neighbors; the same thing is happening in war zones where churches are teaching healthy and life-giving images of manhood.[4] 

                Like the unnamed daughter and the shunned and bleeding woman, this church will find new life by crossing old boundaries and exploring new territories.  It may be in small, rural congregations that discover the Spirit already at work around them, like St. James, Cathlamet, WA, who have been supporting the life and healing of children, youth, parents, and domestic violence victims for 30 years.[5]  Their 25 members have leveraged their gifts to touch most of the households in their county.  St. James, Cannon Ball, ND, is rising from the ashes of arson to continue their hope-giving ministry with youth on the Standing Rock reservation.  The Heimkehrer ministry of Christ the King in Frankfurt serves deported German-Americans by bringing hope for new life out of the loss of home and country.[6]

                The spectrum of healing is as wide as the wounding.  Rainbow Village, in the Diocese of Atlanta, just received a large United Thank Offering grant to continue its exceedingly successful ministry with homeless families and children.[7]  The United Thank Offering is 125 years old, but simply reading the list of grants made at this Convention will give you a sense of how the life of this old girl is being revived by work with the least and lost and left out.  The number of lives touched by United Thank Offerings’s work tells us the ministry of that venerable dame is surprisingly fertile!

                There are some other venerable bodies celebrating jubilees this year as well.  Seventy-five years ago, in the midst of war in Europe, the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief emerged in response to the growing need to aid and resettle refugees.  Some 90% of such displaced people are women and children.[8]  Crossing cultural and language boundaries to meet the face of God brings new life to resettled migrants – and to those who welcome strangers.  Episcopal Relief & Development and Episcopal Migration Ministries are the offspring of that work, and they’re showing us the supple vigor and greenness of youth.  Did you see the refugee tent? Did you get to see a virtual reality glimpse of how its inhabitants are finding new life?  Go explore Episcopal Relief & Development’s photo exhibition of vigorous and abundant life emerging from devastation and death and despair!

                Mother Church will continue rising from the dead if we keep crossing into new territories, in our back yards, prisons, city parks, and pockets of despair, here and across the globe.  If we believe, if we’re faithful, we know that the ancient truth remains, and resurrection is always emerging from death.  That healing may cost plenty of blood, sweat, and tears – but it is rooted in the firm belief that God does enlighten, heal, and deliver. 

                Pay no attention to the finger-wagging.  Turn around and look for the hem of Jesus’ robe.  Go searching in new territory.  Reach out and touch what is clothing the image of God.  Give your heart to that search and you will not only find healing but become healing.  Share what you find and you will discover the abundant life for which all God’s children have been created.  And indeed, the Lord will turn weeping into dancing.[9]  Talitha, cum.  Get up, girl – and boy, and woman and  man – get up and dance!

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

The video services of the daily Eucharist during General Convention 2015 have been produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

General Convention: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Diocese of Utah: http://www.episcopal-ut.org/

Salt Palace Convention Center: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/salt-palace-convention-center/

 

#‎GC78

“Talitha, cum.  Get up, girl – and boy, and woman, and man – get up and dance!” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the gathering in her June 28 sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. The following is the text of...

“This is my story, this is who I am,.” the Rev. Cathlena A. Plummer of Navajoland shared in her sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 27. 

Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota presided at the Eucharist.

The following is the text of the sermon:

A Very Good Shepherd

The Rev. Cathlena A. Plummer
 

Let Us Pray…God, today, we ask you to give us clear minds, open spirits and loving hearts. Amen.
 

Can I just say what a relief it is for me to finally sit down to reflect on our gospel today? How appropriate for a former shepherd from the Good Shepherd Mission in Fort Defiance, Arizona to reflect on our very own Good Shepherd, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 

As a young Navajo girl in the southeastern part of Utah, I grew up helping my mother and father with a herd of sheep that have been our sustenance as well as our extended family members.

Sheep do not have a complicated life but they are creatures of habit.  Within their own flock they have leaders who they follow as they feed and there is a hierarchy that they follow and one of their number cannot usurp that position.

Likewise the sheep know who their master is, their shepherd.  They will in fact come at their master’s voice and anyone else who tries is just wasting their time.

If a stranger attempted to enter their pen the nervousness they would feel would be evident but when the shepherd appeared he could move through their midst as if he were one of them.

I think that this comparison of us to sheep and Christ as the great shepherd is an apt one.  Those who are His spend time in His word and recognize His voice.  His flock wants to follow where He leads them, He can impart comfort and confidence.  Just as a ewe in difficult labor must rely on her shepherd, so must we rely upon Him for help through our travails.  Just as the master over a flock knows what is best for a flock because of the mind that God has given man, so is God’s knowledge of what is best for us.  And just as a predator stalks a flock so are we stalked “as our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Those are just some of the parallels that can be drawn but there are also places that they cannot.  Unlike the sheep in a flock we have a complicated life.  We have other leaders that we follow. Unlike the sheep we have people who have gone against the natural leadership that should be followed.

In the case of the Jews that is what happened with the Pharisees and the high priests.  Those leaders had become thieves and robbers who destroyed by their lack of godly leadership and like the hired hand who doesn’t own the sheep.  No one cared for the people as a true shepherd would his flock.

Fortunately for us Christ is the shepherd.  Though we were sheep that were not of the original sheep pen we have heard and listened to His voice. But…the Bible tells us that there will be another. 

I want to share with you my sheep story.

As a Native American growing up in the Episcopal tradition it has always been a challenge to connect two very opposite views of spirituality, that of Navajo and of Christianity.

In the summer of the year 2008 I believe I was called upon, by the Great Holy Spirit to do the work of an Episcopal priest. My father, the late Rt. Rev. Steven T. Plummer, Sr., had already been gone from our world for three years.

On a particular warm and sunny summer afternoon I was asked by my mother to fetch the herd of sheep that we have been raising for many years. This day they had retreated to the high cliffs thanks to the neighbor’s dogs that have always enjoyed chasing them. Two lambs, only days old, were my deepest worry for retrieving the herd before nightfall.

In the middle of my search I came across a steep bend on the edge of a steep 400 foot drop at the mouth of a canyon ridge. A concave space in the cliff wall I was pressing up against was the only net of safety to keep me from falling over the edge. I drew up my strength to press on so I continued climbing. Just as I was about to turn the corner, a loud voice spoke to me in the air, I could not tell if it was inside my head, or if I was actually hearing it out in the open.  This voice sounded a lot like my father’s voice but it could not have been because my father was gone. The voice continued to speak. This time it was calling me in my Navajo name. This drew my attention. I did not know if I was hallucinating or imagining the whole incident, but I very quietly whispered, “yes?”

Then the voice continued to speak to me in Navajo telling me, “as my child I am very pleased with you and I need your help with my people for they are in trouble.” Without really analyzing the situation, I pictured in my head a meeting that had happened the week before where everyone was bickering at each other about whether or not they should have more meetings because the Bishop was to visit the following month to go over financial documents in the parish. In my memory it was clear that there were voices that were not being heard, which at this meeting, included the presence of the Navajo laity. As soon as the thought disappeared from my mind the voice spoke again and said in Navajo, “you know what I speak of.”

I immediately knelt down and wept. I had not heard my father’s voice in so long, so I wondered whether or not I was going insane or not. I finally stood up to continue on.  Just as I stepped forward a rush of little hooves ran passed me very quickly, and the rest of the herd followed. I was grateful I did not have to go any further up the canyon, and I waited ten paces back from the herd to make sure everyone had been accounted for.

Navajo spirituality, as known to a medicine man in our tribe, is described as a soft gentle breeze. This is exactly what I felt when I was hearing the voice. Later on, when I would tell this story to my Commission On Ministry members, everyone agreed that the voice was probably my father and that it was God’s disguise to get me to listen to him in a way that I could.

I remember that day vividly, almost as vividly as I remember the day my father died, so it was truly a better memory to have. From that day forward whenever I am in doubt of the presence of my father or of God, a gentle voice saying my Navajo name will come and appear and I realize then that I am right where I am supposed to be.        

I desire to help my people understand that Christianity and Navajo traditions are hand in hand and connect in so many ways than one. Our church has an understanding of this harmony and we call it “Hooghan Learning Circle.” 

Hooghan Learning Circle first of all represents the shared walk along the Sacred Way, in which we as a people are to learn to relate to the wisdom and traditions of our own Holy People and Jesus in harmony and beauty. It is an on-going development of ministry formation process that encourages and supports the emergence and carrying of the wisdom of the two spiritual traditions, Diné and Christianity for all who seek this common faith. My father implemented this ministry development process and I intend to honor his work with Hooghan Learning Circle with the help of my own theological education formation.

This is my story, this is who I am, I believe in both faith traditions.  AMEN

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

The video services of the daily Eucharist during General Convention 2015 have been produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

 

Watch the Eucharist on the Media Hub here

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

General Convention: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Diocese of Utah: http://www.episcopal-ut.org/

Salt Palace Convention Center: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/salt-palace-convention-center/

 

#‎GC78

 

“This is my story, this is who I am,.” the Rev. Cathlena A. Plummer of Navajoland shared in her sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 27.  Bishop Michael Smith of North Dakota presided at the Eucharist. The following...

    

The Rt. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, was elected the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church on the first ballot on June 27.

Bishop Curry, 62, is the first African-American to be elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The election occurred during the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

Of the 174 votes tallied, Bishop Curry received 121 (89 needed to elect).

Following his election by the House of Bishops, Bishop Curry’s election was overwhelmingly confirmed by the House of Deputies, 800 for, 12 against.

Meet Presiding Bishop-Elect Curry

Curry was ordained Bishop of North Carolina on June 17, 2000.

His experience includes:

1988-2000: Rector, St. James' Episcopal Church, Baltimore, Maryland

1982-1988: Rector, St. Simon of Cyrene Episcopal Church, Lincoln Heights, Ohio

1982-1988: Chaplain, Bethany School

1978-1982: Rector, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Winston Salem, North Carolina

He has served on a number of Episcopal Church Committees, a Commissions, Agencies, and Boards:

  • Chair, Board of Directors, Episcopal Relief and Development (current)
  • Board of Trustees, Saint Augustine's University (current)
  • North Carolina Council of Churches (current)
  • Moral Monday movement (current)
  • Chair, Advisory Committee, Office of Black Ministries (current)
  • Bishop Visitor, Community of the Transfiguration (current)
  • TREC/Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church
  • General Convention Committees: Evangelism, Global Mission
  • Standing Commission on World Mission
  • Union of Black Episcopalians
  • Institute of Christian and Black Studies of Baltimore
  • Ecumenical Clergy on the Square, Revival and Citizens on Patrol (Baltimore)
  • Jubilee Ministry, St. James' Afterschool Academy, Baltimore
  • Board, Episcopal Social Ministries, Diocese of Maryland
  • Chair and Co-Chair, convention Planning Team, Diocese of Maryland
  • Commission on Ministry, Dioceses of Maryland, Southern Ohio and North Carolina
  • General Board of Examining Chaplains
  • Board and Faculty, College of Preachers
  • Coordinator, The Racism Steering Committee, Diocese of Southern Ohio
  • Board, Winston-Salem Urban League

He holds a Bachelors of Arts, with High Honors from Hobart and William Smith College; a Masters of Divinity from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale; Continuing Studies at The College of Preachers, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University, The Ecumenical Institute of St. Mary's Seminary and Institute of Jewish Christian Studies; and D.D., honors causa, from Sewanee The University of the South,  Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, Virginia Theological Seminary, and The Episcopal Divinity School

An author, his publications include:

  • Songs My Grandmother Sang (Morehouse Publishing, Spring 2015)
  • Crazy Christians: a Call to Follow Jesus (Morehouse Publishing, 2013)
  • "Some Strange Things Are Happening in Charlotte", opinion, (The Huffington Post, Sept. 4, 2012)
  • "Stay in the City", sermon (The African American Pulpit, Judson Press, 1999 issue)
  • "Abyssinian Annals," a weekly column( The Baltimore Times)
  • Essay ("Joy", Forward Movement, 1995)
  • Article Series (Episcopal Life, September 1993- May 1994)
  • "Servant Woman" and "There's Power in the Word " , sermons ( Sermons that Work 11, Forward Movement Publications)

Married to Sharon, they are the parents of two adult children.

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

 

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/episcopalian

Twitter: www.twitter.com/iamepiscopalian

  

     The Rt. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, was elected the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church on the first ballot on June 27. Bishop Curry, 62, is the first African-American to be elected...

The United Thank Offering of The Episcopal Church awarded 55 grants for a total of $1,558,006.85 for the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The announcement was made by Samuel McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, during the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church, meeting June 25- July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).

The United Thank Offering is a ministry to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church. Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

The 2015 grants were awarded to projects in
46 dioceses, which included 34 dioceses located in the United States, five non-domestic dioceses, five companion dioceses, and two grants to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society: one each for missionaries serving internationally and Young Adult Service Corps (YASC).

Also, in honor of the 125th Anniversary of the United Thank Offering, nine special grants were awarded to young adults (ages 21-30), one in each Episcopal Church Province. (see info here)   

“In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the United Thank Offering, the annual grants and the young adult grants are sound steps in striving for God’s vision and are seeking to change lives in a new way by a variety of actions,” commented Peg Cooper of Missouri, United Thank Offering board member.  

Recently, the Rev. Heather Melton, the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s United Thank Offering Missioner, reported that the United Thank Offering experienced a record year of generosity, marking a 2.14% increase for 2014-2015 over the previous year. She noted that the United Thank Offering was able to fund 35% of requests in 2014;  38 dioceses of The Episcopal Church increased their Ingathering amounts in the past year; six of the nine Provinces increased their overall Ingathering amounts; and Anglican Communion donations also increased over last year.

The focus for the 2015 grants was the Fourth Anglican Mark of Mission—to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation. The focus of the young adult grant was to provide seed money for a new project that was based on any of the Five Marks of Mission.

Recipients

  • Diocese of Alabama - Christ Church Cafe, Christ Episcopal Church, Fairfield, AL:  $36,687.46
  • Diocese of Alaska - Good Grief – Working Together to Overcome Grief, Formalized relationship with Diocese of Navajoland:  $29,750.00
  • Diocese of Albany - Support Group Beginnings and One in 4 Awareness Healing a Woman’s Soul, Inc., Capital District Area, Albany, NY:  $13,650.00
  • Diocese of Atlanta - Early Childhood Program at Rainbow Village Rainbow Village, Inc., Diocesan Program:  $75,000.00
  • Diocese of California - Stairway to Greater Learning, Holy Trinity/La Santisima Trinidad Episcopal Church, Richmond, CA:  $54,398.00
  • Diocese of Central Florida - Itolwa Water Well Project, Companion Diocese of Kondoa, Itolwa, Tanzania:  $46,464.00
  • Diocese of Chicago - Workforce Development Program, Lawrence Hall Youth Services; Joint Venture with Episcopal Charities, Chicago, IL:  $ 9,820.00
  • Diocese of Delhi - Province Haryana, Nurses Hostel, Philadelphia Hospital, Ambula City, North India:  $30,000.00
  • Diocese of East Tennessee - Interfaith Congregation Organizing, FISH Hospitality Pantries; Episcopal Led Interfaith Community Organization, Knoxville, TN:  $20,000,00
  • Diocese of Ecuador – Litoral - Reconstruction of housing for the missionary and his family in the Episcopal Church of San Pablo Quevedo, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Canton Quevedo, Los Rios Province, Ecuador:  $62,000.00
  • Diocese of El Camino Real - Expansion of Los Puentecitos/Little Bridges Bilingual Preschool, St. Lukes’s Episcopal Church, Hollister, CA:  $75,000.00
  • The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe - Navigating New Life, a project of the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC), St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church, Rome, Italy:  $22,800.00
  • Diocese of Fond du Lac - Organizing for Justice in North Central Wisconsin, John the Baptist Episcopal Church, Wausau, WI:  $34,000.00
  • Diocese of Georgia - The Community of St. Joseph, The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, Savannah, GA:  $19,660.00
  • Diocese of Idaho - The House Next Door: Mentor, Grace Episcopal Church, Nampa, ID:  $20,000.00
  • Diocese of Indianapolis - Swords to Plow Shares Community Farm, St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, IN:  $16,151,77
  • Diocese of Iowa - Luyengo Farm for Food Equity and Self-Determination, Companion Diocese of Swaziland, Luyengo, Kingdom of Swaziland:  $40,000.00
  • Diocese of Jerusalem - Renovating and Equipping St. Luke's Hospital Intensive Therapy Units for Improved Quality Services, The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Nablus, Palestine:  $136,750.00
  • Diocese of Lexington - Hazard Episcopal Ministries, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Hazard, KY:  $24,000.00
  • Diocese of Liberia - Portable Science Laboratory Project, Monrovia, Liberia:  $40,040.00
  • Diocese of Louisiana - A Safe Place: Ensuring Fire Safety for Our Children, St. Anna’s Episcopal Church, New Orleans, LA:  $16,260.00
  • Diocese of Michigan - Kids in the Kitchen, All Saints' Episcopal Church, Pontiac, MI:  $32,430.00
  • Diocese of Missouri - St. Stephen's Industrial Kitchen - St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Ferguson, MO:  $31, 804.00
  • Diocese of Montana - "Keeping the Feast:"  A Nutrition Education Program, Camp Marshall, Polson, MT:  $8,000.00
  • Navajoland Area Mission - Blue Corn Meal Project, St. Christopher’s Mission and Good Shepherd Mission Bluff, UT and Fort Defiance, AZ:  $97,400.00
  • Diocese of Nebraska - Friends of Tamar: A Ministry of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Omaha, NE:  $33,300.00
  • Diocese of Nevada - Community Immigrant Legal Services Project, Christ Church Episcopal, Las Vegas, NV:  $25,000.00
  • Diocese of Newark - Vehicle Replacement for Bishop of Liberia, Companion Diocese of Liberia, Monrovia, Liberia:  $48,000.00
  • Diocese of North Carolina - St. Cyprian's Afterschool Literacy Center, St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church, Oxford, NC:  $ 5,000.00
  • Diocese of North Dakota - Tiny Houses Building Life Capacity, St. James’ Episcopal Church, Cannon Ball, ND:  $43,500.00
  • Diocese of Northern Indiana - Camp New Happenings, Camp Alexander Mack, Milford, IN:  $ 5,360.00
  • Diocese of Olympia - Sports for Peace, Companion Diocese of Aweil, South Sudan:  $15,000.00
  • Diocese of Oregon - St. Michael/ San Miguel Playground Equipment, St. Michael/San Miguel Episcopal Church, Newberg, OR:  $27,813.46
  • Diocese of Pennsylvania - The Darby Project: Collaboration between the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, Episcopal Community Services and the leadership of Darby Borough, Darby Borough, PA:  $12,050.00
  • Diocese of Rorya, Province of Tanzania - Community Vehicle, Rorya District, Tanzania:  $28,200.00
  • Diocese of South Dakota - The Dakota Territory Human Trafficking Project, Formalized relationship with Diocese of North Dakota:  $54,800.00
  • Diocese of Southwest Virginia - New Music Program at St. Paul’s, Martinsville, VA, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Martinsville, VA:  $3,795.00
  • Diocese of Spain, Extra-provincial jurisdiction - Pilgrim Center for the Anglican Communion in Pontevedra, Spain, Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church/ Iglesia Española Reformada Episcopal, Pontevedra, Spain:  $60,000.00
  • Diocese of Utah - Ministry through Journey of Hope, Journey of Hope, Inc., Salt Lake City, UT:  $25,000.00
  • Diocese of Virginia - St .Peter’s Episcopal Church Community Kitchen Upgrade, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Port Royal, VA:  $14,996.16
  • Diocese of Virginia - Vehicle for the Rt. Rev. Wilson Kamani, Diocese of lbba, South Sudan, Companion Diocese of  Ibbba, Ibba, South Sudan:  $46,290.00
  • Diocese of West Tennessee - Friends of Thistle Farms, Calvary Episcopal Church and Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, Memphis, TN and Cordova, TN:  $22,591.00
  • Diocese of Western Massachusetts - Mission de Gracia /Mission of Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Holyoke, MA:  $30,000.00
  • Diocese of Western Michigan - Durable Medical Goods Lending Pantry, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Cadillac, MI:  $35,800.00
  • Episcopal Church Department of Mission, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society - To provide monetary gifts for discretionary use of women and men who serve overseas (outside the United States) as Episcopal Missionary Personnel; this also includes individuals in religious orders outside the United States; these gifts are to be sent to the recipients at the same time as all other United Thank Offering grant awards:  $40,000.00
  • Episcopal Church Department of Mission, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society - To provide for the continuation of the Julia Chester Emery, Young Adult Service Corps/United Thank Offering intern:  $35,000.00

 

The United Thank Offering award funds are derived from the Ingatherings/funds/contributions received through offerings from the well-known and easily recognizable UTO Blue Box.

 

 

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

Facebook: www.facebook.com/episcopalian

Twitter: www.twitter.com/iamepiscopalian

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/EpiscopalChurchYT

  

The United Thank Offering of The Episcopal Church awarded 55 grants for a total of $1,558,006.85 for the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. The announcement was made by Samuel McDonald, Deputy Chief Operating...

“We don’t seek solutions whose only virtues are that they save us time, save us energy and save us money,” the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies said in her sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 26.  “We seek solutions that serve the kingdom.”

The following is the text of the sermon:

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
78th General Convention
June 26, 2015

 

In the Name of our Living, Loving, and Magnificent God!  Amen.
 

Our first two readings today speak of visions. They paint frightening pictures, even for those of us who look at them from a distance of almost two thousand years, in one instance, and more in the other. Isaiah gives us six winged creatures tending a sovereign the hem of whose garment—just the hem—fills a temple. John of Patmos tops that with his four living creatures whom an earlier passage tells us looked like a lion, an ox, an eagle and a human being, only with lots of wings. Which were covered with eyes.

Visions are a kind of language. They are the way writers help us glimpse truths that are beyond what any of us has seen or even imagined. Christians have resorted to visions throughout our history, and in its way, the language of vision is an admission that our minds can neither comprehend nor communicate the fullness of God’s majesty and mercy.

If you listen to the gospel closely—and you kind of have to listen to this Gospel closely—you will see that even Jesus has a hard time using language to speak about the nature of God. The sentences keep twisting back on each other: I am in you, you are in me, they are in us. Put these sentences in front of someone who hasn’t been listening to them their whole life and they’d have a hard time telling you what they mean.

His language is bursting at the seams. In a metaphor that probably has fresh relevance for you after your journey to Salt Lake City, the suitcase of human comprehension is not big enough for the concepts Jesus needs to stuff into it in this passage.

Throughout Christian history, mystics and visionaries, like John of Patmos, Hildegard of Bingen, and Julian of Norwich, have resorted to forbidding and ecstatic language to tell us about divine experiences that ordinary prose just can’t contain.

And yet, here is the thing about visions, as Joseph and Daniel and Ezekiel knew:  they have to be interpreted; they have to be rendered sensible to the people who credit their authenticity but who aren’t seeing them themselves.

It’s appropriate then, that these readings celebrate the feast of Isabel Florence Hapgood. She was among other things, a translator. We celebrate her for the 11-year project of translating the Service Book of the Holy-Orthodox Catholic Church into English. But she also gave readers of the English language Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, a magnificent gift, although I expect my 16-year-old technology assistant, who has to write a paper on “Anna Karenina” by the middle of next month, doesn’t think so.

I’d like to think that each of us is involved every day in the act of translation, of living and speaking in ways that try to put an every day wardrobe on phenomenal beings with wings covered with eyes.

As Christians, it is our job to take the ecstatic, frightening, demanding dreams of our great prophets and seers, and make them sensible to the people around us.  It is our task to speak and act in ways that make it obvious what we believe and why we believe it. It is our task to give people some sense of the incredible power of the magnificent, living God whom we worship.

It may seem that there are few human enterprises further from visions of spectacular garments with hems that fill a temple of creatures with eyes on their wings than General Convention. I am not a digital native. I was born well before computers and online culture transformed the world and transformed the church, but I know what a mashup is and I’ve wondered what would happen if John of Patmos ran headlong into the House of Deputies. I think it might sound something like this: I saw the temple filled with deputies in shimmering raiment and a creature with six arms and a voting device in each one said, “I rise to a point of personal privilege during which I would also like to amend the amendment on the previous motion and immediately end debate and refer the resolution back to the parallel committee for further consideration.” And the Lamb, in a voice that caused all to tremble said, “Sit down deputy. You are out of order.”

But listen: ours is an incarnate faith. We believe that the Word takes flesh. Our faith is transformative. We believe that the Word having becomes flesh redeems the world. We do not believe in untethered visions, but we also don’t believe in reality untethered from vision.          

We don’t seek solutions whose only virtues are that they save us time, save us energy and save us money. We seek solutions that serve the kingdom.

The work of disciples is spinning the golden threads that tie the ecstatic vision of a loving, powerful God to your life, to mine and to the life of the church on earth. We weave these threads when we study scripture to understand the source of visions, when we delve into our history to learn about mystics and seers and the societies that produce them; when we act in ways that make it obvious that we are inspired by a God of breathtaking power and love, when we tend the sick, feed the hungry and advocate for the voiceless.

And we weave those threads between holy vision and ordinary life when we gather to order our common life, to discern what God is calling us to do and how God is calling us to do it. It isn’t easy to spin these threads, and it isn’t necessarily exciting every minute. Reading resolutions, testifying in hearings, finding yourself frustrated because people are disagreeable, or conversely, finding yourself frustrated because people avoid conflict, is all part of bringing God’s vision to rest in the church. I ask you to count it all as blessing, to understand that the labor required to see and then serve a shared vision is holy work.

We will fall short. Visions exist because the God we serve can neither be fully understood nor perfectly served. And yet, and yet—to invoke another seer and another vision—if we wrestle this angel, it will bless us.

Amen.

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

The video services of the daily Eucharist during General Convention 2015 have been produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

Watch on the Media Hub here

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

General Convention: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Diocese of Utah: http://www.episcopal-ut.org/

Salt Palace Convention Center: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/salt-palace-convention-center/

 

#‎GC78

“We don’t seek solutions whose only virtues are that they save us time, save us energy and save us money,” the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies said in her sermon to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on...

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued this statement following today’s Supreme Court ruling:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.  [1Corinthians 13:4-8]

I rejoice that the Supreme Court has opened the way for the love of two people to be recognized by all the states of this Union, and that the Court has recognized that it is this enduring, humble love that extends beyond the grave that is to be treasured by society wherever it exists.  Our society will be enriched by the public recognition of such enduring faithful love in families headed by two men or two women as well as by a woman and a man.  The children of this land will be stronger when they grow up in families that cannot be unmade by prejudice or discrimination.  May love endure and flourish wherever it is to be found.

 

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate

The Episcopal Church

 

 

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

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Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued this statement following today’s Supreme Court ruling: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it...

“Follow Jesus into the neighborhoods,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her sermon at the opening Eucharist to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 25. “Travel light.”

Watch the Eucharist on the Media Hub here 

The following is the text of the sermon:

General Convention

Opening Eucharist

June 25, 2015

 

            It’s pretty hot for camel hair right now. You may not have had locusts for breakfast, but I can tell you where to buy protein bars made from cricket flour.[1]  And I saw honey for sale in the exhibit area.  This may be an Episcopal convention, but we are all supposed to be John Baptists and Jane Baptists.  Our task is to build that straight road, knock down the privileged heights, fill in the sloughs of despair, and make the road flat enough for all God’s people – and that includes Baptists, Episcopalians, Jews, Hindus, and “nones.”

            We’ve been baptized into Jesus’ baptism as well as John’s, and called to the kingdom work all the prophets proclaim: to be light in the darkness, strength and comfort for God’s people, gathering the lambs and leading ewes to shelter, and showing the healing power of forgiveness.  That is the road to the peaceable kingdom.

            John was a pretty edgy dude.  Like those who dwell on our streets and sleep in our parks, he wasn’t terribly welcome in the palaces of his day.  And like them, John scratched out a living in the desert.  Locusts and honey were probably luxuries, for lizards and carrion are likelier sources of protein.  In the desert water is always scarce and frequently alkaline. We are sitting here on the edge of a desert where death is ever present.  Many died by violence[2] before the trek to this oasis began, and others were murdered or died of disease and exposure as they sought their destiny even farther west.[3] 

            We live in a world filled with deserts of death – wars in the Middle East and Africa, racial and ethnic strife almost everywhere, and exploitation of human beings and the whole created order.  The song is more than 50 years old but it’s hauntingly current: 

They’re rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!

It ends even more tellingly:

They’re rioting in Africa, there’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us, will be done by our fellow man.[4]

            We are grieving nine African-American Christians murdered while at Bible study.  Women and girls are being raped and kidnapped as spoils of war in Central Africa. The Dominican Republic is expelling people of Haitian descent some of whose ancestors have been there for generations.  Brazil has seen vicious attacks on Candomblé[5] communities recently.  An 11 year old girl was stoned by militant Christians as she left a worship gathering last week, and a 90 year old priestess died of a heart attack when her worship space was invaded.[6]

            We can help to build a different kind of road. One with light bearers rather than death dealers.  The good news is there are forerunners at work in all the places of the world’s conflict and hate – forerunners pointing to the Prince of Peace.  Members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston made their light-filled witness at the arraignment of the young man charged with shooting their fellow parishioners.  They stood up and said, ‘we forgive you, even in the midst of our nearly boundless pain; hate must not win.’ [7]  Their statements echoed the forgiveness offered by the Amish community whose daughters were slaughtered at school in 2006.[8]  The Anglican Church in DR Congo is leading the work of healing and reintegrating women struck down in war.[9]  In the Dominican Republic, Bishop Holguin and other religious and civic leaders are moving mountains to address the growing injustices meted out to people with darker skins.[10]  In Porto Alegre, Brazil, an interreligious group of leaders stands in solidarity with all.[11]

            We are gathered here to let our own light shine, to foster the work of peace everywhere, to stand in solidarity with people struggling to survive in the desert.  On Sunday I met a group of young people in the Birmingham airport, whose T-shirts said “the Road.”  They were on a Methodist mission trip, coming to work somewhere in an Alabama desert.  What Road gear will you put on for the way to the Reign of God? 

            This convention is about road-building in the desert.  That kind of work that has always required teams of people, usually poor, often enslaved, sometimes a chosen vocation.  Building a road home into the kingdom of God requires solidarity with those who are dragooned into construction work without compensation for their labor as well as those who cannot find a road.  It’s one reason Jesus called himself a road warrior, with no place to lay his head.  There are many roles –you can join the chain gang, the litter crew, the Good Samaritan posse…

            Our conversations about structure, mission, and marriage can prepare us for the journey, but they will not build the roadbed.  They are a necessary prelude, a community-building exercise to get us focused and moving.  The longer task is to build a road that will accommodate wheelchairs as easily as feet, that will gather the little ones and the ancient ones together into an ever-increasing company taking the road for home.  We’re bound for a world without predators, with plentiful food and water for all, where all God’s children are greeted with dignity reflecting their divine image, and the gifts of creation are shared and available to all, as each one has need.

            We won’t reach our journey’s end unless we go together in company, in solidarity and partnership, trusting that God has provided what is needed – if we share the work and the gifts.  That is the deepest meaning of forgiveness of our sins, which are always bound up with self-centeredness and selfishness. Remember that in the heat of debate!  God has given us a variety of perspectives, and the body needs those gifts.

            This road will be built by the bruised and broken, imperfect body of Christ.  We’re in transit in this world, on our way to the beloved community and the peaceable kingdom.  Stony the road may be, it’s built by blood, sweat, and tears, and bound together by the solidarity of countless feet, marching upward to Zion. 

Follow Jesus into the neighborhoods. Travel light.

 

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is meeting through July 3 in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

The video services of the daily Eucharist during General Convention 2015 have been produced by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.

 

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

General Convention: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Diocese of Utah: http://www.episcopal-ut.org/

Salt Palace Convention Center: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/salt-palace-convention-center/

 

#‎GC78

 

 

[5] Afro-Brazilian religious tradition originating with West African slaves transported by the Portuguese

[8] Amish Grace  http://amishgrace.com/

[11] Grupo de Dialogo Inter-Religioso de Porto Alegre http://wp.clicrbs.com.br/blogdasreligioes/?topo=13,1,1,,,13  

“Follow Jesus into the neighborhoods,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in her sermon at the opening Eucharist to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 25. “Travel light.” Watch the Eucharist on the Media Hub...

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next nine days,” President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings said in her opening remarks to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 24. “Not just meetings and hearings and legislative sessions, but also listening to each other and paying attention to what new things are arising among us.”

Watch the presentation on the Media Hub here

The following are the opening remarks by President Jennings.
Good morning, and welcome to the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church! My name is Gay Clark Jennings, and I’m a deputy.

Today is a big day. For us deputies, it’s our first chance to be together in three years, and it’s our first chance to welcome our 398 new members. First-time deputies account for 46 percent of our house, and taken together, first- and second-time deputies make up 66 percent. The potential is enormous!

Today is also our chance to meet the nominees for presiding bishop in person and hear each one’s vision for how he would help lead the Episcopal Church into the future God wants for us. I’m looking forward to this afternoon.

Now, I’m sure it’s a coincidence that we’re greeting our presiding bishop nominees on the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. And I’m sure we will all enjoy the special lunch of locusts and wild honey that the Salt Palace staff has prepared for us.

But I think it’s not a coincidence that we’re beginning the work of the 78th General Convention on this feast day. Here’s how Luke’s Gospel tells part of the story:

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. 

Now, remember that Zechariah had been struck dumb some months earlier for doubting God’s messenger. He didn’t think things could change for him and Elizabeth, and he said so. It appears that he came by this reluctance honestly:  his neighbors and relatives who came to circumcise the baby didn’t even think it was okay to step out by trying a new name.

But Zechariah had spent his period of silence well. And when the people assembled had witnessed the miracle and heard his praise, they knew they were on the edge of a strange and wonderful future.

“What then will this child become?” they asked. What indeed?

You won’t be surprised that now I’m going to turn from preaching to meddling. The first thing I want to point out about this reading is that in order for Zechariah to hear God speaking to him, he had to stop talking and listen. For a long time. You know who you are.

The second thing to notice about this text is that what’s at stake is the baby’s identity. God is moving, strange things are happening, and no one is sure what’s going on. So they disagree about what the baby’s name should be. We have had a version of this naming problem in the Episcopal Church these last few years, as you may have noticed.

Just like Zechariah, we are standing on a boundary between the old and the new. Gathering here to wrestle with the future of our beloved Episcopal Church, we are standing on holy ground, straining to hear God speaking above all the noise. And we are not quite sure who we are.

Whenever I find myself on a boundary, Paul Tillich is my go-to guy. Tillich, a theologian who taught at Harvard Divinity School and the University of Chicago, said this in a sermon reprinted in his collection titled “The Shaking of the Foundations:”

Nothing is more surprising than the rise of the new within ourselves. We do not foresee or observe its growth. We do not try to produce it by the strength of our will, by the power of our emotion, or by the clarity of our intellect. On the contrary, we feel that by trying to produce it we prevent its coming. By trying, we would produce the old in the power of the old, but not the new. The new is being born in us, just when we least believe in it. It appears in remote corners of our souls which we have neglected for a long time.

So, thinking of Zechariah and of Tillich, for a few moments, let’s quiet the din around us and listen for the new within ourselves. Let’s turn down the volume on the Pew Center’s statistics about the decline of the institutional church, the endless online arguments about what Millennials really want, and what one tweeter recently called the “church decline industrial complex.” Let’s quiet our souls.

When we can do that, I think we’ll sense the rise of the new within ourselves and know, as Tillich says, that it arises from what’s already in the corners of our souls, from what we have been neglecting, discounting or taking for granted.

What will we find there, in the corners of the collective soul of the Episcopal Church?

I think we’ll find our Baptismal Covenant, in which we affirm the Creed, repent of our sins, proclaim the Good News, and promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being. All of them—not just the ones with orthodox theology, or any theology; not just the ones who make us comfortable; not just the ones whose understanding of marriage or access to communion or the calendar of commemorations accord with our seminary training or our bishop’s direction. Not just the ones who know how the Virtual Binder works.

I think we’ll find our history of seeking the kingdom of God by distributing authority among clergy, bishops and laypeople so that all voices are heard, all people are welcome, and all visions of justice and mercy are honored.

I think that in the neglected corners of our souls we’ll find the saints who have gone before us. There are a lot of them, and you might be surprised who you’ll find lurking in your soul. As I have been preparing for this General Convention, which marks the 230th anniversary of the House of Deputies, I have been keeping close company with Deputy and later Bishop William White, with Deputy Thurgood Marshall and Seminarian Jonathan Daniels, with the women of the Philadelphia Eleven, and with my sister Pamela Chinnis, the first woman to lead this house, just to name a few.

By the way, on Saturday after the Community Eucharist, we’ll have a party to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the House of Deputies, and we’ll celebrate these saints who have gone before us and some saints who still blessedly walk among us. I’m told that the bishops have other plans for Saturday, but if you’re nice to your deputies, they might save some M&Ms for you.

Now, unless you’ve been off the Internet for about three years, you know that we’re going to spend a lot of time at this General Convention talking about church structure. I think it is safe to say that we are not always going to agree. I think we have probably had our last unanimous structure vote for a while. And that is okay. Because when we’re talking about structure, we’re really talking about our identity. We’re talking about what’s growing in the neglected corners of our souls. We’re talking about what to name the baby.

We’re talking about our vision of the Beloved Community, and we are asking important questions. Can we restructure in a way that inspires and energizes the people of our church? Can we restructure in a way that continues to respect the gifts of all orders of ministry? We are talking about who we are as the people of God if we are not the church we have always been. We’re talking about what it means to be a deacon or a priest or a bishop if it doesn’t mean what it meant—or what we thought it meant—when we finished a local formation program or seminary. We are talking about the fate of the governance structures through which we have progressed—sometimes haltingly, sometimes kicking and screaming—toward equality for people of color, for women, and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians. We’re talking about the shared leadership by which we have achieved our prophetic stands on the death penalty--which we have stood against as a church since 1956—on racism, gun safety and poverty, and the enormous amount of work we still have to do. We’re talking about the fact that our governance structures gave many of us a seat at the table for the very first time, but that when we sat down, some of our brothers and sisters stood up and left.

We’re talking about the fact that God isn’t done with us yet.

We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next nine days. Not just meetings and hearings and legislative sessions, but also listening to each other and paying attention to what new things are arising among us. Much of the work we have to do is about our own institutional future. But that’s not all of what we do.

The church isn’t the only segment of our society that’s reeling right now. Income inequality is greater than it has been since 1928, our cities are besieged by gun violence and racial injustice, and too many young black men are caught in the school-to-prison pipeline. Even as we wrestle with the church’s future, we must reckon with its past. We must realize that the long, hard struggle to eliminate discrimination within the church required so much energy and vigilance, that we did not do enough to right the wrongs of discrimination, white privilege, and inequality in the world around us. This summer, especially, we must repent of that. Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore, Charleston – General Convention is where we Episcopalians have the ability not only to proclaim that black lives matter, but also to take concrete action toward ending racism and achieving God’s dream of racial reconciliation and justice. We can do no less.

We have a lot of work to do. We are people of God who have been shaped, in ways that endure, by our history, by the fundamentals of our faith and by our common prayer. Surely we need to change, to restructure, to adapt, and surely we need to do it drawing upon the strengths of the identity given to us by God and shaped by the saints who have gone before us.

After the baby who Zechariah named John had lived and died, Jesus was traveling when some people brought to him a man who couldn’t hear and couldn’t speak clearly. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus took him aside, put his fingers in his ears, spat and touched his tongue. “Then looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said to him, ‘Ephaphatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’”

May we be the man who Jesus healed. This General Convention, may we hear and may we speak, but most of all, my brothers and sisters, may we be opened.

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President of the House of Deputies

 

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be held June 25 – July 3, in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.

 

The Episcopal Church: www.episcopalchurch.org

General Convention: http://www.generalconvention.org/

Diocese of Utah: http://www.episcopal-ut.org/

Salt Palace Convention Center: http://www.visitsaltlake.com/salt-palace-convention-center/

 

#‎GC78

“We’ve got a lot of work to do in the next nine days,” President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings said in her opening remarks to the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church on June 24. “Not just meetings and hearings and...