July 8, 2012
This was the day that I have been waiting for. And I was not let down! This morning’s Festival Eucharist was glorious! I was too far away to count the number of people in the choir, the brass players, and all of the musicians who supported our worship this morning but I am still giving thanks for the gifts that they gave to us today.
The worship space was packed. Members of our deputation got there over half an hour early and they had to work hard to hold seats for all of us. The room was full fifteen minutes before worship started and others “late arrivers” were directed to another room where they got to experience the liturgy via the Episcopal version of the “Jumbo Tron.” Now before you feel too sorry for the people who were in that second room I want to tell you that both the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies went to that space to distribute communion. John Washbush, a member of our deputation from St James Milwaukee, told me that the highlight of the day for him was watching the Presiding Bishop administer a young boy’s first communion with his family standing around them. John was quite touched by the sight of the Presiding Bishop, on her knees offering communion to this young member of the Body of Christ and he speculated that, in her position in the church, she probably doesn’t get to participate in that kind of moment very often. He was still glowing at the recollection late this evening.
The Presiding Bishop was the Preacher and Celebrant at the Eucharist this morning. Her sermon was wonderful. She was playful, funny, authentic and spot on. I hope that you will follow this link and watch, listen to, or read the sermon for yourself. My favorite moment came when she delivered the following lines:
“What about your hands? They, too, are instruments of healing, reconciling, re-creation – let’s see those hands! Here is a sacrament of God’s mission. How will you use those hands in an impudent and rebellious house? These hands can be instruments of warning, or to comfort and strengthen the wavering. Hands can be instruments of prophetic communication, a gift only some among us have learned.”
What you don’t know from reading the transcript is that she paused at this point and looked across the platform at the sign language interpreters. The interpreter was so engrossed in her work that she didn’t know that the Presiding Bishop was looking at her. When the interpreter finally looked over and realized what Bishop Katherine had side she smiled and signed “I love you” to the Presiding Bishop. It was a wonderful moment!
After the Eucharist the Diocese of Indianapolis had a treat for us. Victory Field, home of the AAA Indianapolis Indians baseball team sits across the street from the convention center. The Diocese of Indiana had converted the stadium to a “Diocesan Fair” complete with all kinds of food, entertainment and games. ON Saturday the Secretary of Convention, Gregory Straub, had extended an invitation in behalf of the Diocese of Indiana. The deputations on the floor let out an audible groan when we were told that we would have the opportunity to play the worlds largest game of musical chairs. But we all sat up straight in our seats when he told us that the grand prize would be a brand new Kindle Fire! As the Eucharist concluded people were pouring across the street to join in the festivities.
As I was leaving the building I ran into some old friends of the Diocese of Milwaukee. The Reverends John and Rachel Gardner were in the hallway with their three children. The three of us, John Rachel and I, were classmates at Virginia Theological Seminary. After we graduated John was the chaplain at St John’s Military Academy and Rachel was the Associate at Trinity, Wauwatosa. We spent a long time catching up and sharing stories. Catching up with old friends has been a big part of the General Convention Experience but it really took center stage today.
In many ways the General Convention is like a big family reunion. I have been keeping a list of people that I know that I have seen here. Between people I know from seminary, people I know from the dioceses of Maryland and Washington, and people I know Credo and my trip to Atlanta last year, I now have the names of 32 people scribbled in the margins of my notebook. I know that there have been more people than that (believe it or not I do not always have my notebook in my hands) and it has been wonderful. So today, rather than join the throngs streaming into Victory Field I went out to lunch with Caroline Black, Canon for Formation in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia. Caroline and I had adjacent offices at All Saints Episcopal Church in Frederick, Maryland when I was the Assistant Rector and she was the Director of Christian Formation. We caught up on family news, recollected our time together in Maryland, and talked about the church, Christian Formation, and our experience of General Convention. It was wonderful to connect with an old friend and to hear about another part of the church.
By the end of the day, as our deputation gathered in the lobby of the Hotel the highlight of the day for many people was the time that we had today to be with old friends, to gather for fellowship and support, and to enjoy the relationships we have with one another in the larger church, the Body of Christ.
To top it all off the deputation and anyone else from the Diocese of Milwaukee that we could find, gathered for dinner at a restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel. We had made reservations for thirty two people and as we were preparing to sit down to dinner they were bringing in more chairs! Kate McKey, representing the Official Youth Presence and the Christian Formation staff, Dorota Pruski, a seminarian from Diocese who is now at Virginia Seminary, Diocesan Staff, members of the Diocese who were there in official and unofficial roles… It was a great way to end a day of Sabbath and rest… Rest? Did I say rest?
Of course there was also a four-hour legislative session and a meeting of the Province V Caucus to nominate four people to stand for election to the committee that will identify candidates to run for Presiding Bishop in 2015. There is never a dull moment here at General Convention.
The legislative session was relatively uneventful. In fact we were given a one hour recess during that session because we were waiting for committees to get their resolutions through dispatch of business and onto the floor. I will write more about today’s legislative happenings tomorrow.
Tomorrow Committee meetings and hearings begin at 7:30 am. We have legislative sessions from 11:15 to 1:00 and from 2:15 to 6:30. The rest of the day will be filled with committee meetings and hearings. The budget needs to be completed ad to the printer tomorrow afternoon so that will be coming to the floor soon. The Committee on Prayerbook, Liturgy and Music is meeting tomorrow to work on A049 – Authorizing the Blessing of Same Gender Relationships. The Committee on Structure will be meeting again tomorrow. I plan on closing the day by having dinner with a friend who went through the discernment process and was ordained to the Diaconate with me in Maryland. Then I will attend the Eucharist sponsored by Integrity (The Preacher will be Bishop Gene Robinson and the Celebrant will be Bishop Mary Glasspool who was the Canon to the Ordinary when I was in Maryland) then spend some time with two of my closest friends from seminary. It will be a full day and I am sure that there will be lots of interesting things to report!