Chaplain to the House of Deputies Lester Mackenzie often closes his prayers by saying “because You love it when we pray!”
And we do pray, often. At the beginning of each legislative session, our Chaplain leads us in lively, joy-filled, exuberant music and prayer, and sometimes, after adjournment, he can be found quietly laying hands on individual deputies as he prays with them for matters of urgent personal concern.
And every morning before the Legislative session begins, we celebrate the Eucharist. From where I stand below the altar as a floor deacon at the Convention Eucharist, the hearing-impaired are seated directly in my line of sight. Watching them sign (not sing) the Sanctus has become my favorite moment of the morning. They make me think of Elijah finding the voice of God in sheer silence as their gestures weave heaven and earth together while the rest of us sing “heaven and earth are full of your glory.” If God indeed “loves it when we pray,” God must delight in these silent, ethereal prayers.
Hard and heavy work gets done in Legislative Committee meetings, many of which begin at 7:30 a.m. and one of which ran past 11 p.m. last night, as well as on the floor of the two Houses; our afternoon session today in the House of Deputies ran till nearly 7 p.m. (actually cut short because Spanish translations weren’t yet available for the resolutions before the House; we were supposed to finish at 7:30). By beginning this work with prayer, we are living into what the President of Episcopal Relief and Development said this morning; “Worship undergirds mission.”
I can’t imagine surviving the grueling schedule of General Convention without the faithful attention paid to prayer.
This is my first time serving as a Deputy, having been to four previous Conventions simply to do book signings and selling. I was allowed to attend Legislative sessions as a visitor in those years, but mostly I was expected to hang out in the exhibit hall. This year, I missed my scheduled half hour to sign Star of Wonder and Season of Angels on Saturday because we Deputies staged a revolt and refused to adjourn for lunch until after we were able to confirm the election of Michael Curry as our next Presiding Bishop – so instead I’ve stopped by the Forward Movement booth during a few rushed minutes here and there to sign the books, which is all vastly different from the leisurely five days I spent in the exhibit hall back in 2000 when my Confirmation program book, I will with God’s help, first came out – and which, to my surprise, is still available for sale 15 years later at another booth in the exhibit hall. A priest I’ve never met from Alabama stopped me in the hall last Friday to say he’s still using the program.
Our afternoon session today was long, sometimes frustrating, and incomplete, but our returning Deputies assure us this is normal, and all shall be well. It would be easy to get so caught up in the business of our sessions that we forget why we’re doing it, but Presiding-bishop Elect Michael Curry reminds us of the “why.” He unabashedly preaches his love for Jesus, continually insisting that following Jesus into the neighborhood is our deepest call. “How” we accomplish this “why” is the work of Convention. Bishop Curry quoted Billy Sunday: “If the Episcopal Church ever wakes up – look out!” The work and prayer of this Convention has shown that any Episcopal naptime is over: even if sessions run long and resolutions get delayed, we are awake! (If you doubt this, note Curry’s landslide election, then check out the resolutions that have been passed on such matters as marriage equality, racism, and gun violence [my favorite quotation of the whole Convention still remains Gay Jennings’ injunction to “turn guns into swing sets”]).
Much lies ahead in the final four days of Convention, but grounded in prayer and following Jesus, we may not yet know the outcome, but we for sure know the Way.
The Rev. Calvin Sanborn, rector of St. George’s, York Harbor, has been following the Special Committee on Marriage and the resolutions the Committee has engaged in during General Convention. Here he shares the work of the Committee and the status of the resolutions considered.
And congratulations to him upon being elected as the Province 1 (New England) clergy representative to the committee that will nominate the next Presiding Bishop who will be elected in 2024.
But for me, one of my favorite parts is the opportunity to meet people of convention on the streets, in the elevators, and in the halls of the convention center.Participants at convention are easily identified by the lanyards and name tags we all wear around our necks. It is easy to feel a connection to one another: we are all here for a common purpose and hold similar beliefs. People are always interested in where you are from and it is a form of instant fellowship.
I have had many amazing conversations and learned so many things from people I have met here at convention. One, a woman from the Diocese of Utah, told me as we stood on the corner waiting to cross the street, that the streets of Salt Lake City were laid out to be wide enough so that a team of eight oxen could make a u-turn. Another, Tony Chu from the Diocese of New York, described General Convention as “Camp for adults.”Yet another conversation was a chance reunion. On the way to the community eucharist one day, I bumped into Father John Palarine, who was the Youth Missioner for the Diocese of Central Florida when I was a kid. He and I went on a mission to Honduras during my high school years and we had not seen each other in nearly thirty years! When I was growing up in Orlando, I had the chance to participate in Happening, a weekend retreat for high school age kids. These weekends were filled with fellowship with friends old and new, music, laughter, worship, and fun. The chance to spend this time in a community of young persons, learning about Christ and the church are some of my fondest memories of my teenage years. There was a down side to all of this. When the weekend was over, I had to leave my Happening friends, and return to the real world.
At the General Convention we also share times of fellowship, music, laughter, and worship. It fills me with joy, a feeling of hope, and a sense of purpose. To me, being among the people of the General Convention seems like a small taste of the heavenly reward that awaits us on the other side of this life.
But as our work continues, there is a question that keeps nagging at me. When convention ends, how do I take what I am feeling now, the things that I have learned, and bring them back to the real world?In some ways, it is similar to the question Anthony Michael Hall’s Brian poses at the end of The Breakfast Club: What happens on Monday?
When I encounter someone at convention, it is safe. I know that I speak to someone with a common interest and a common love of Christ. In The Breakfast Club, Brian tells his new friends that he would never deny them. I hope that I have the courage to witness the joy and love of Christ that I feel here in Salt Lake City, when I return to the wider world.
Dean of St. Luke’s Cathedral in Portland and Maine Deputy Ben Shambaugh is a member of the Prayerbook, Liturgy, and Music Committee. Here he talks about the work members have engaged in and resolutions coming up for a vote.
Maine Deputy Brenda Hamilton is Vice-Chair of the new Committee on Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Here she shares the work the Committee has engaged in during General Convention and resolutions slated to come up for a vote in the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops.
by Sherri Dietrich
UTO Coordinator for the Diocese of Maine
Today the General Convention worship celebrated the work of the United Thank Offering and I was one of the long line of blue-clad women (and a couple of men) who proudly processed in to the service and then across the stage to present the results of our dioceses’ UTO ingatherings from the past years. There were supporting hoots and hollers from deputies and bishops as the name of their diocese was called, but I didn’t hear any hooting from the Maine deputies. I think we should work on that for next time, and perhaps even invent a unique Maine diocesan holler—I’m thinking something like a loon’s cry or a moose call. Since the last Triennium in 2012 the United Thank Offering has gathered in and given out in grants some $4,400,000 dollars, and done the same with over $144 million in the 125 years since UTO was formed. That’s a lot of money and a lot of mission work, thanks to all of those coins dropped into Blue Boxes.
While the Deputies of the Day have been busy doing their work at General Convention I have been representing Maine at the Episcopal Church Women’s Triennium, taking place at the same time and in the same place—the gigantic Salt Palace, which I was sorry to discover is not at all made of salt. For the past few days ECW has been busy in meetings in which we changed our bylaws to conform to requirements of the IRS, announced the grant recipients for 2015, and celebrated UTO’s 125th anniversary at a dinner with Bishop Curry as our speaker. The next several days will include some more business and workshops about things from how to spread the word about UTO and get more people excited about participating in it to making and using Anglican prayer beads.
At the end of this meeting I will be joining the United Thank Offering Board as the representative for Province I, and I’m excited about the future of UTO and Maine’s part in it. In 2012 Maine’s ingathering total was $13,819.52, in 2013 our total was $10,239.22, and in 2014 the total was $8,607.80—a significant trend in the wrong direction! Be prepared to hear more about the practice of daily thankfulness and Blue Boxes soon.
by Elizabeth Ring
St. Bartholomew’s, Yarmouth
The day began with prayers, story sharing, and a march against gun violence. Heidi has put together a wonderful report with pictures and videos. If you have not seen it, do read it and watch the videos. We have some articulate, important voices leading us in the work of stemming gun violence. The video that Bishop Hayashi, himself a survivor of gun violence, released with his pastoral letter earlier this month is one of the most powerful I have seen. He tells his own story about half way through.
The morning continued with Eucharist that included the UTO ingathering. Convention worship is an extraordinary experience – colorful, musical, emotional, empowering. To sit in a room with almost as many people as there are Episcopalians in Maine takes my breath away. While the daily Eucharists are anything but low-key, the Sunday Eucharist adds processions and extra music for even more color and drama. The procession of UTO representatives, followed by the procession of Bishops, followed by the choir and the celebrant, wove through the room with great dignity. In the background were the voices of small children that added joy. Singing accompanied by organ, brass, and timpani is goose bump giving.
The Presiding Bishop used the phrase from the Gospel, “‘Talitha cum’ which means, ‘Little girl get up!’”, and the passage about the woman with the hemorrhage taking the risk to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, to remind us that we need to risk what will happen if we reach out to touch that garment hem and that we need to get up and get out of ourselves. A powerful call on the day we witnessed against gun violence and a reminder that there is a great deal more to do. The text of the sermon is here. Bishop Katharine gives us a big nudge about our responsibility to get up, reach out, and create justice.
Each day of Convention I have bumped into at least one person that I have not seen in a long time, wonderful surprises around corners; people I have worked with in lifelong formation, ecumenism, and leadership development. I love this kind of surprise. Here are a couple of former Mainers: Deacon Jane Holmes, now in North Carolina, and Barbara Plimpton.
Our Legislative session today had moments of profundity, moments of humor, and moments of frustration – the usual mix. We completed some of our elections. Took action on a few resolutions, and welcomed the Official Youth Presence. After their two speakers completed their remarks, House President Jennings invited all the deputies who had previously been members of the OYP to come forward; it was a large group. They are a wonderful and significant proportion of the House.
My Legislative Committee – Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations – goes back to work early tomorrow morning to consider two new resolutions that have been assigned to us. We already have a few resolutions on the calendar for consideration. One on learning more about our brothers and sisters of other faiths – who they truly are, what their core beliefs espouse, and our common areas of concern as people of faith – is particularly exciting. I look forward to seeing how we can put this into action in Maine.
Between the momentous events in our country, two major Supreme Court decisions, and the positive energy around living our faith in deeper and stronger ways that is permeating the halls of Convention, we are in an awesome time. I wonder what happens next.