How We’ve Prepared for Revival
When we first began talking about a diocesan revival in Roanoke, Virginia, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, we had to stop and think about what that might mean for us – the revival service itself, as well as its aftermath throughout the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia.
Just having Presiding Bishop Curry here with us creates the need for a lot of preparation. He always has been popular among members of The Episcopal Church, but especially following the Royal Wedding this past summer, he truly is a worldwide celebrity. His presence in Roanoke is considered noteworthy, no matter from whose perspective it is!
We did the kind of “housekeeping” things everyone can imagine we would do. For instance, we secured a place for the revival that is large, accessible, appropriately grand, and easily recognized in the community. We want this to be a worship service that is life-changing for all, not just Episcopalians in this diocese.
We attempted to prepare spiritually, asking all of our congregations to have the revival of our diocese in their ongoing prayers. Bishop Mark Bourlakas put together a special prayer that he provided to congregations for this purpose. We also asked for our “prayer warriors” - especially the Daughters of the King chapters throughout the diocese, to pray for revival.
Diocesan staff members created and sent out weekly electronic revival “invitations” to congregations in our diocese. Each one focused on one of the seven practices from the Way of Love, urging folks to focus on that practice while continuing to pray for revival. The thought was that if all of our congregations are practicing a Jesus-Centered life that they, in fact, are preparing for revival.
Come to think of it, perhaps there has been a lot going on that has been preparing the diocese for revival. We have had two major themes in recent years in the way our diocese has approached being followers of Christ: Living Local, Joining God in the Neighborhood (LLJG) and Becoming Beloved Community.
For LLJG, we have read books together and participated in national training from The Missional Network. Six of our congregations, primarily led by laity, have formally participated and completed a two-year commitment to move outside of their walls, seeking to be in relationship with and to see the face of Christ in those they find there. The original twelve congregations now are ready to mentor new congregations for the same experience beginning in 2019. We soon hope to be a diocese full of LLJG congregations. These efforts have prepared us for revival.
Our other major theme across the diocese has been to focus on Becoming Beloved Community. We have sought and received commitments from congregations to pursue the activities put forth by the presiding bishop and his staff for this work. We have put on “conversations” across the diocese with scholarly speakers to promote understanding of institutionalized racism. Other diocesan-wide efforts have included:
- “Allyship” training and “allyship in action” groups as ways to create more equality between the privileged and the oppressed;
- Story sharing events that include paperless singing (as taught by Music that Makes Community) to understand more fully the experience of those who have been oppressed because of racism; and
- Planning for spiritual pilgrimage to places heavily impacted by racial inequality, sometimes to the point of devastation and even death.
These efforts have prepared us for revival.
One may ask, can you ever really prepare for a revival? Isn’t it dependent on God’s plan for us and the way in which the Holy Spirit moves us? The answer, of course, is “yes,” but we also are responsible for creating a fertile place for new seeds to be sown. This has been our diocesan goal over the last few years. It has not been “business as usual” - and never again can be. We are preparing for and we are seeking revival.
This post was written by the Ven. Melissa Hays-Smith, Archdeacon for the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia