Every three years, the Episcopal Church holds its General Convention. It’s a meeting primarily for legislative purposes, but anytime you get thousands of Episcopalians together in one place there’s bound to be some pretty awesome worship services, discussions, dining out, and drinks. It’s happening right now in Anaheim, and I drove up for the day on Friday to see friends from the Diocese of Spokane and poke my head in on the proceedings.
What was it like? Amazing.
Between witnessing cogent, thoughtful discussion about B033, attending two powerful Eucharists, sitting in on the House of Bishops and House of Deputies (kind of like the senate and house, respectively), and running into scads of good friends, I had an absolutely amazing time.
For pictures and a slightly different perspective, check out Ashley’s blog post from that day – she’s a deputy from the Diocese of Spokane, and we’ve been going to Camp Cross together since 5th grade.
I got to see Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, albeit from a distance. She reminds me very strongly of my mother, both in appearance and in spirit. I was there when the House of Bishops approved entering into full communion with the Moravian church, and when the resolution passed the bishops all got to their feet and sang Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. Out of the blue!
I could go on and on about the memorable moments, the holy moments, and the moments of sheer fun, but let me share just two more.
After hearing various deputies speak for over an hour about B033 and the role of GLBT people in the church, someone had the idea to sing a lovely hymn called The Church’s One Foundation. They projected the lyrics in a plain white font on a black background two stanzas at a time, for all five versus, and we sung unaccompanied. My favorite part:
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed;
I’m still not sure what it was about those archaic-sounding lyrics being projected in a hall full of some 1,000 Episcopalians, all singing five full verses of a hymn about the Church’s relationship with God and knowing the tune by heart. It just fit.
Finally, toward the close of the day, hundreds of folks packed into a hotel ballroom for the Integrity Eucharist. It ran for two full hours yet seemed to last mere minutes. It was a room full of holy people, all coming together to celebrate and rejoice in the diversity of God’s creation and our call to be fully inclusive in the Church. Bishop Gene Robinson presided and a retired bishop named Barbara Harris preached one helluva sermon. I really can’t do the experience justice… at one point, we sung as a djembe was played:
Amen, sia-kudu-misa! Amen, sia-kudu-misa!
Amen, ba-wo. Amen, ba-wo. Amen sia-kudu-misa!
It is cited as “Traditional South African,” and the translation is simply “Amen, we praise your name, O God.” We repeated the simple melody over and over as bright red and orange streaming banners processed through the crowd and Bishop Gene spritzed everyone with baptismal water. That part of the service alone must have gone on for twenty minutes, and it was transcendent.
I’m still coming to terms with all the experiences I had on Friday. It was all so overwhelming and wonderful. I feel blessed to be part of such a vibrant community, and to have such good friends from so many places.