General Convention included a joint session of Bishops and the House of Deputies to formally nominate the four candidates for Presiding Bishop and to discuss issues around structure at every level of our denominational life: national/international, provincial, and diocesan. We were basically asked to discuss what is working and what is not working - and responses from each group were then tweeted or emailed back to the committee working on these questions.For this work, rather than debating on the floor using Robert's Rules of Order, each diocesan deputation was divided in half and paired with half of another deputation. So I was in the group that talked with folks from The Diocese of South Dakota, while the other half of our deputation spoke with people from the recently reorganized Diocese of Eau Claire. Interestingly enough for us, the Bishop of South Dakota, The Rt. Rev. John Tarrant, previously served in our diocese as the rector of St. Paul's, Stockbridge. (Cue the song track, "It's A Small World...")
What I've been learning at a diocesan level everyday was intensified in these conversations: one size does not fit all. The Gospel we proclaim - that Christ is alive - is the same everywhere. But living that good news out in the City of Worcester is very different from what is needed on an Indian Reservation the size of Connecticut that includes eleven congregations served by one priest. Yes, you read that right. What an interesting conversation we had!
Context matters. We are a people of the incarnation. There is much that binds us together, but the work takes a different shape. One of the aspects of Convention that it seems impossible to capture by way of the media - including social media like this blog- is the way that listening and the deepening of relationships that change the way we understand our shared vocation. It is holy work, to be sure - sometimes hard to see, and sometimes (as today) glimmering right before one's very eyes. As Gay Jennings put it so well earlier in the day in her sermon at the Convention Eucharist:
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.Indeed. (You can listen the whole sermon here.)