I almost didn’t go. I was up until two am and I had thought that I might sleep through the morning Eucharist so that I could begin the day with more than five hours of sleep. But then my eyes opened at 7:00. I looked at the clock, reminded myself that I was going to sleep in, and then realized that after the day we had here at General Convention yesterday I really needed and wanted to attend the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving. I am so glad that I did.
When I entered the worship space the choir was singing, chanting, the graceful steady rhythms of Gregorian Chant. I looked at my bulletin and it hit me. Tis is the feast day of Benedict of Nursia, author of St. Benedict’s rule for monasteries. As I sat there bathing in the power of our tradition I recalled a day ten years ago when, having been newly ordained and deployed to my first parish, I traveled from Frederick, Maryland to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to observe the feast of St. Benedict with my mentor and field Ed supervisor The Rev. Betty McWhorter at Saint Patrick’s Episcopal Church. I was deeply moved by the smile that lit her face when she walked into the small chapel and found me waiting there. This morning I was filled with gratitude for ttie gentle reminder of the poeple who have walked this path with me, Benedict, Betty, and all the saints who have gone before us. Our tradition and history are rich and they represent a precious gift.
Then there was the sermon.
The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, priest to The Crossing, the emergent worship congregation at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston, was recently named one of two chaplains to the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops, a two-year appointment that she shares with the Rev. Canon Simon Bautista, Latino Missioner in the Diocese of Washington (D.C.).
Her sermon touched me very deeply. I have heard from some folks in the last week who are afraid that all of this talk of change will lead us to throw the baby out with the bath water. In fact a few have suggested that we may throw out more than one baby in our attempts to refresh the waters. On Tuesday we heard Bishop Robinson preach at the Integrity Eucharist. He told us:
“You know what?” he asked. “I want some answers to things. I want things to stay where I put them and to stay where I think them, and I don’t like to be asked to move on and then move on again and to move on again. And yet, it seems to be the biblical witness that God means for us to live in tents and to move from place to place and to never finally settle down until we’re all in heaven. We are meant to live, in this world at least, in tents.”
Just when we think we have arrived God says nope, you’re not there yet. Keep on moving. We are called to be itinerant, on the road, constantly moving, following where the Holy Spirit leads, and resisting the impulse to build foundations that will ties us to one place, one way of thinking one way of being.
Here is how this morning’s preacher, The Rev. Stephanie Spellers talked about our desire and our willingness to change:
“Throughout this Convention, we have prayed and proclaimed our desire to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to welcome emerging generations and cultures. Did we mean to pray that? Do we want the conversion that hospitality entails?
I pray that we do. Because right now, here’s what our legendary welcome sounds like: “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. We’re so glad you’re here! Now, this is the Book of Common Prayer. Obey it. This is our musical tradition. Master it. This is our English heritage. Adopt it. This is our sense of order. Assimilate it. And the gifts from your home culture, your young culture, your lower-class culture? Would you leave them at the door and pick them up on your way out? They’re not quite Episcopal enough.
I do not think we mean to be unkind or unwelcoming. I think we love what we have received and the most natural thing in the world is to share it with others in that very form. I think we are afraid that opening to two-way transformation with The Other could shatter or simply erase the foundations of our Episcopal identity.
Benedict would say this is not so. To be Christian is to engage in a dance. To be Anglican is to engage in a dance. Stabilitas keeps us anchored, holding fast to what is holy and true. Conversatio morum makes us free to say, “Here is the way we have known Jesus. May this path bless you. How have you known him? What song sounds like God to you? What dream has the Spirit whispered to you in your ear? I am confused, I am scared. But I embrace this dying and rising, this sacrifice and blessing, this transformation into the fullness of Christ. And, I embrace you.”
I hope you will read her whole sermon. It is posted here.
Oh, and by the way. The House of Bishops passed the resolution on restructuring the church unanimously today!
The Acts 8 Moment is gathering again this evening.