General Convention Reflection from Thursday, July 5, 2018
By Titus Presler
Joy and celebration – these have been the main notes of my first couple of days at General Convention: joy in meeting so many old friends from so many places around the church and the world, and celebration in the vitality of the church evident in the work envisioned in the many initiatives brought to this once-in-three-years gathering of the church.
After preliminary committee meetings and a legislative orientation session yesterday, Convention opened formally today with a morning eucharist attended by thousands, always a stirring experience in itself, and featuring wonderful music. The centerpiece was Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon in which he focused on Jesus’ words, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. . . . Abide in me. . . . Abide in my love.”
As he sought to dramatize how integrally connected to Jesus we are and should strive to be, Curry turned to the story of Jesus coming to the disciples on the sea on a stormy night. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he said, he could walk on water, but when he turned his eyes toward the wind and the waves – that’s when he began to sink. Jesus doesn’t calm the storm. Rather, the key is to “keep our eyes on the prize,” which is Jesus, in whom we find love, freedom and abundant life.
Jesus doesn’t calm the storm. Rather, the key is to “keep our eyes on the prize,” which is Jesus, in whom we find love, freedom and abundant life.
The sermon was stirring and inspiring, and I suggest that parish groups in Vermont watch it on video – at points you’ll laugh out loud, at others you may be close to tears, and I believe you will be deeply moved. The spiritual practices for a rule of life that Curry suggested were distributed in a handy, card-size trifold with these seven injunctions: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. Copies are available for distribution in congregations.
A great event last evening was the Global Mission Reception, “Celebrating the Global Jesus Movement,” held at a nearby restaurant by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN), which brings together mission-activist dioceses, congregations, mission organizations, seminaries and individual. About 150 people from all over the church and world attended, and as the network’s president it was a joy to welcome old and new friends and see new connections being catalyzed in all directions.
Serving on the World Mission legislative committee, I’ve been working with colleagues to perfect resolutions, some of which were submitted by GEMN, to increase funding for Episcopal Volunteers in Mission (EVIM) and the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC), establish an Episcopal Gap Year Program for people ages 18-23, stand in solidarity with people experiencing religious persecution, renew relationships with Anglicans in Sudan and South Sudan, and reach out to Episcopalians amid the current turmoil in Venezuela.
A final vignette: In the House of Deputies this morning a video was shown of very brief self-introductions by the international visitors that the Episcopal Church invited to this General Convention. The succession of 20-second talks featured church leaders from Southern Africa, West Africa, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Jerusalem, Canada, Scotland, Central America, Hong Kong, Canada, Central Africa and England.
In all its diversity and even in its tensions the global Anglican community is a sacrament of Christ’s presence in the world.
The video illustrates that as part of the 85-million-member global Anglican Communion we are members of a vast company of Christians who include all parts of the human family. In all its diversity and even in its tensions the global Anglican community is a sacrament of Christ’s presence in the world. The Episcopal Church shares in that sacramental reality, and the life of General Convention, equally diverse and sometimes tense, makes that sacramental reality especially clear. It’s a blessing to be here. It’s a privilege to represent the Diocese of Vermont in the shared work of strengthening the church’s participation in God’s mission in the world. Thank you. #GC79
In the featured photo: The Vermont deputation checks in on the day’s work over lunch. Photo by Stannard Baker.