by the Rev. Mary Lee Wile, Deacon
St. Paul’s, Brunswick
My very first auditory memory involves lying on the wooden pew in St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois, listening to the sound of the liturgy wash over me. I’ve spent my life as an Episcopalian, and now serve as a deacon here in our diocese, so you’d think I would have a pretty good sense of what the Episcopal Church is all about.
But I have to admit that my understanding has been stretched and liberated and challenged and energized, first though taking part in General Convention this summer, and then by attending the recent Installation of Michael Curry as our 27th Presiding Bishop. In his sermon at the National Cathedral, Bishop Curry said: “God has not given up on the world, and God is not finished with the Episcopal Church.” I would add that he made it clear that God is not finished with any of us as individuals, either.
The comfortable, crowded suburban church of my childhood gave me a solid grounding. I think of my participation in that church as a safe, meandering journey to the center of a labyrinth. Standing in the line that wrapped itself around the National Cathedral on the morning of the Installation, I thought again of that image of a labyrinth, this time with the Installation itself as the center – the centerpiece – before we would all head back out into our own separate lives, challenged and changed. To mix metaphors, the Cathedral breathed us in, held us, and breathed us out again.
What was so exciting was knowing, even as it was happening, that in that center, in that held breath, the Episcopal Church was being reborn. As Bishop Curry said, “The Spirit has done evangelism and reconciliation work through us before. And the Spirit of God can do it again, in new ways, now beyond the doors of our church buildings, out in the world, in the sanctuary of the streets, in our 21st Century Galilee where the Risen Christ has already gone ahead of us.”
That was his challenge. That is our call: of course to stay grounded in this Church that we love, but to take our love of God and our decision to follow Jesus out into “the sanctuary of the streets.” He spoke with passionate eloquence about evangelism — not a comfortable word for a lot of Episcopalians, he admitted, but an evangelism that involves “sharing good news…deeply grounded in the love of God…listening and learning…helping others find their way to a relationship with God without trying to control the outcome.” In other words, we’re not to try to “catch” or “create” more Episcopalians, but to follow Jesus and serve our neighbor, and leave the rest to God.
I loved being there, surrounded by thousands of Episcopalians as well as ecumenical and interfaith leaders (and members of the press, hanging over high balconies), singing together, praying together, and sensing a seismic shift as this extroverted, passionate, evangelical bishop became our 27th Presiding Bishop. As a deacon, I’d been delighted by his focus on the word “GO!” in his sermon at General Convention, his injunction to go into the world beyond our red doors to share our good news and take compassionate action. With the Most Rev. Michael Curry as our leader, our encourager, our role model, more of us might just do that.
(And that’s what he and I were talking about after the service – “go” – be willing to make the journey out of the labyrinth – go out and share the good news. – And in case you can’t tell, I think Michael Curry’s leadership of the Episcopal Church is good news, indeed!)
by Lisa Meeder Turnbull
Diocesan Stewardship Consultant
Like all good things, the gift of “an extra hour” raises a fundamental question of stewardship: How will we spend it?
Many of us, of course, will take advantage of some extra sleep, or maybe indulge in staying up late on Saturday night. Inevitably, and no matter how well we plan our clock changes, there will be those who arrive early for morning services.
Why not make this an opportunity for moments of grace?
- Recruit a few greeters to intentionally arrive early, prepared to spend time with early comers. This isn’t just for newcomers or recent members; long-time members and life-long friends enjoy unhurried conversation, too.
- Invite! If you are one who arrives early for Altar Guild, Coffee Hour hosting, or Church School, invite the early comers to keep you company, pitch in, and be a part of things. You might find new gifts in your midst!
- Create a small chapel space. Some early comers might appreciate an unexpected time of quiet, prayer, and reflection.
- Plan into it. For the last month or so members of my congregation have been writing favorite hymns on a list posted to the bulletin board. We’ll use our “bonus time” for a half-hour hymn sing before the service begins.
What else might our congregations do with an extra hour? How might we fall back with hospitality? Share your thoughts in the comments below—let’s see how creative we can be with this gift of time!
Questions for Lisa about your church and stewardship? Please be in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his sermon at Good Shepherd, Houlton, on Sunday Bishop Steve Lane preached on the rich young man who decides he can’t give up his wealth and status to follow Jesus. He had this, in part, to say:
The real issue here may be that we are dealing with very different definitions of wealth. For the rich man and for the disciples, material wealth and security is what it’s all about. And treating your neighbor fairly. For Jesus, wealth is being surrounded by one’s brothers and sisters secure in God’s love and willing to give fully of oneself for the sake of another. That’s what the kingdom of God is all about. That is the vision of true wealth Jesus is offering.
With Bishop Steve Lane and all deputies safely back in Maine, the 78th General Convention is history as well as historic.
House of Deputies News has a comprehensive round-up story titled “Deputies sprint to the finish” here. We offer a last few photos of Convention:
[Editor’s note: I promise to not divulge the identity of the deputy who snapped the photos of his or her fellow deputies at the airport as they slept and/or prayed for their red-eye flight home.]
Below is a video of the Presiding Bishop-Elect Michael Curry’s sermon at the closing Eucharist of the 78th General Convention. The text is available here.
Also, below is a video of the Presiding Bishop reading a letter of congratulation sent to Bishop Curry from President Barack Obama. Here is a link on White House letterhead.