General Convention is giant.
There are about 5,000 Episcopalians gathered in the city of Austin for these next 10 days to study, pray, sing, debate, break bread, and, if one is lucky, to hear some good ‘ole country music.
Each one of us in the deputation from Central Pennsylvania gets to experience a small slice of this giant convention every day. Sometimes our experiences overlap, and sometimes we are on our own, representing our diocese and doing our work with brothers and sisters from one of the other 109 dioceses in The Episcopal Church.
Yesterday, July 4th, I got to experience three wonderful events- a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies in which we received welcoming messages from President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings and our presiding bishop Michael Curry; the first legislative committee meeting and hearing for Committee #15 (Ministry) of which I serve as Chair of the bishops, and the Listening Liturgy offered by the House of Bishops to hear stories of men and women in our church who have suffered sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation.
All three events were powerful and made me proud to be an Episcopalian. The energy of the Holy Spirit in our joint session was palpable as we came together to launch the work of Convention with uplifting and convicting messages from our leaders. (There was a bird in our cavernous assembly hall that flew in front of ++Michael during his address- it was a sure sign of the Holy Spirit!) The orderliness of our legislative process in the hearings that we held showed the respect that we have for the democratic process and the inclusion of all opinions around the table. And the coming-to-fruition of a process and liturgy that I have worked on for four months lifted up the need for change in our church around issues of sexual abuse in a way that is critical and has opened the path for more, and deeper, work.
I saw some of our ECW women who arrived late this afternoon after a trip that included several travel mishaps – their plane nearly ran out of gas as they circled above Austin and, when they finally arrived, unscathed but tired and late, it took some time to locate their rooms In the hotel reservation system, but in the end, all was well.
My evening ended with warm brisket bathed in blueberry habanero hot sauce, wrapped in a flour tortilla. The saying “Keep Austin Weird” extends even to their menu choices. It was weird, but really good.
I hope that you all had safe and happy 4ths of July.
As I write this, I’m watching fireworks outside my window.
Blessings and peace.