One of the most common things I have heard about General Convention is, “But, what does that have to do with the people in the pews? What does it really matter?” I’ve always come up with some response that seemed to fit the answer but deep down I’ve often wondered the same thing myself. As we sit for hours and debate resolutions to death, I wonder what this actually has to do with ministry. While we certainly had moments of frustration in the House of Deputies today, the first action of the day is the action that mattered.
At 7:15 this morning roughly 2000 people gathered outside the convention center for Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence, an even sponsored by Bishops Against Gun Violence. We were first person testimonies from victims of gun violence and police officers turned preachers. We went on a mile march, as as we walked through Salt Lake City we sang, “Out of the deep I call unto thee, O Lord. Consider well the sound of my longing soul.”
This was not the first time I participated in a march like this, but something was different about this march. Several times along the way I had to stop singing because I was getting chocked up. So I prayed. I prayed the petition that we prayed at the beginning of each station:
V. God did not make death
R. Nor does God delight in the death of the living
God did not make death, nor does God delight in the death of the living. It was a profound, beautiful, and holy experience that concluded with an address from Presiding Bishop-Elect, Michael Curry.
This morning, 2000 people stopped to listen and prayer. This morning 2000 people got up early when it would have been easier to sleep. This morning 2000 bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, lay ministers, deputies, volunteers, and members of the local Salt Lake Community got up to say one more life is too many.
This was our first action of the day, and is one of – if not the – most important actions we will take at this 78th General Convention. We got out of our respective houses where we talk about the issues of gun violence that something has been done and we let our feet speak for us. God did not make death, nor does God delight in the death of the living.
After the march it was time for worship. The current Presiding Bishop preached and presided at the Eucharist and gave one of the best sermons I have ever heard her preach. Her sermon can be summed up in three short sentences, “Talitha, cum.” Get up, girl, you’re not dead yet. Jesus might just as well be speaking to this church.”
The Holy Spirit is trying to do something powerful in our midst – helping us witness to the Jesus movement in our particular Anglican way. The problem is that too many people have come to believe that the Church is dying. That the Church is in decline and the only way to survive is to be “relevant” or dilute the standards around participation that have defined our worship for centuries. We have gotten in the way of God’s marvelous action in our Church, and at times n the world around us. It is far easier to rattle off a list of excuses as to “why the Church is in decline” instead of getting out of the way, putting our own personal agendas aside, and standing up for the Gospel of Jesus.
I think we are starting to wake up. You can see this in all corners of the Church – the Church is not dying but growing. I agree with the current Presiding Bishops – Jesus might just as well be speaking to this church when he says, “Talitha, cum” in today’s Gospel.
We are not dead yet. This morning, with our first action of the day, we got up.