This week in Indianapolis, The Episcopal Church will gather for it's seventy-seventh General Convention. We meet every three years, which means that this has been going on now since the 1780s. Of course, the roots of Anglicanism in this country go back further than that, but it was only after the American Revolution that The Episcopal Church was founded as distinct from the English Church.
This will be my very first Convention and I am going as a deputy from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts. I am genuinely awestruck by that fact, and, I must confess as I prepare for this work, a bit overwhelmed. (Alright, a lot overwhelmed!) My bishop (who is retiring at the end of this year) has been serving in the House of Bishops since 1996, making this seventh Convention. I will be serving in the House of Deputies with three other priests and four lay people from our Diocese, all but one of the lay people have done this before. So I'm hoping they will take me by the hand...
I've been trying to read up, trying to get my head around the scope of the work we are called to do. I am beginning to realize that may not be possible: that so much will be happening outside of the legislative sessions. One piece I just read with some excitement on The Episcopal Cafe was written by Jim Naughton. I've always enjoyed his writing and now I have a better understanding of why: like me he's a northeastern Pennsylvania boy! (He writes: "I started sliding voting cards under the windshield wipers of cars in church parking lots during Sunday morning Masses in my hometown when I was nine years old and my father worked for the city controller in Scranton, Pa.")
His entire post can be read here. But I want to quote here just the last two lines:
I love this church, and I love it in some measure, precisely because it is governed by an elected representative body. This is what elected representative bodies look like, and I salute those who are not too good to make them work.I may be a rookie to General Convention, but I have been an Episcopalian long enough to add my own "amen" to this. Sometimes it is hard to say what we love about our own traditions without sounding critical of others. And I am certainly aware of a lingering paternalism and clericalism in the Episcopal Church. Even so, General Convention is an expression of our belief in the priesthood of all believers, in Baptism as the core of our Christian identity. Ultimately the Presiding Bishop and the House of Bishops don't get to tell us what to do or how to believe. We do this work together, as God's people. We listen for God's Word and we discern God's Vision together, through an elected, representative Body. How cool is that? I am excited and honored to be a part of that holy work this time around.
I am going to try to post as often as I can, and as quickly as I am able to process what I see and hear. But I want to recommend several other sources in addition to my thoughts here, and especially if I find that I don't have the time to do all that I want to do here in the next two weeks.
First, there is The Episcopal News Service. And there is also, as mentioned above, The Episcopal Cafe. In addition, our deputation from Western Massachusetts will also be writing a daily blog from Convention, Western Mass Musings...at a minimum one of us will be posting each day, with other posts as people find the time and inclination. (See John Cheek's July 2 post if you are interested in the link to live streaming of Convention worship.)
Finally, then, I ask for your prayers as I get ready to travel tomorrow. How about this, from the Book of Common Prayer -
Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in Indianapolis for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage ato pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.