Monthly Archives: July 2015

The Beheading of John the Baptist

IMG_1596I had the honor and privilege to preach at St. Matthew’s in Wilton, CT  on Sunday July 15.  The lessons for the day were not the easiest and can be read here.  As this sermon was preached with out a manuscript and the recording is over on SoundCloud.  Below please find the text for the morning’s Gospel reading.

Mark 6:14-29

King Herod heard of the demons cast out and the many who were anointed and cured, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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It’s a Wrap!

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The Diocese of Rhode Island guarded by the anchor in the House of Deputies.

That’s all she wrote folks.  The 78th General Convention has come to a close.  In some ways it went by quickly and in others it feels that we’ve been in Salt Lake City for a month.

This marks the end of my fourth General Convention, third as a Deputy.  In many ways it has been like every other convention and in some ways it has been unlike any other experience.  This triennial gathering, for me, has been marked by historic decisions of my beloved Church, serving on a legislative committee for the first time, continuing to find my voice and passions within the corporate life of The Episcopal Church, and even getting a few job offers (which my Bishop’s wife promptly turned down for me).  Exhaustion has set in so I am having a hard time capturing the day.  I am sure over the days and weeks ahead, as I process and reflect on these last 12 days, more will come to mind, but at the moment there are only two things that come to mind.

First, I am filled with deep and profound gratitude for the people of The Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island for electing me to this amazing ministry opportunity, and I am thankful to my Bishop for allowing me to continue to serve after I became a postulant.  It is a real honor to serve in the House of Deputies, one I do not take lightly.  Thank you to all those who have mentored and supported me over the years so that I may serve faithfully in this way.

Second, I am confident in saying that the highlight of the day was the sermon at the closing Eucharist this morning.  This Eucharist served as the “welcoming” Eucharist for the Presiding Bishop-Elect.  As such Michael Curry preached.  If you’ve ever heard him preach you know the power of this man’s voice.  It’s a great sermon and I think was just right for the day.  I invite you all to watch Bishop Curry’s sermon – particularly if you’ve never heard him preach before.

Friends it is time to go!

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Deputy Self Care

Sometimes a deputy just needs to take a break.  I hit that point this morning.  Luckily I had arranged for our alternate to take my place on the floor.  By taking this morning off I missed the budget debate (I’m very excited to report that we have funded mission and evangelism in serious ways).  This morning I did things for me to rest and recover from the chaos of these two weeks.  I had breakfast with fellow RI deputies, participated in the community Eucharist, went for a walk and had coffee with a dear friend whom I have not seen in over a year and a half.  It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of the important things outside of General Convention – that there is more than the floor and microphone three (the mic closest to our tables).

As I walked around Salt Lake City I was reminded that at General Convention we model pretty bad stewardship of ourselves.  General Convention is essentially two weeks of early mornings, late nights, long legislative sessions, quick lunches, eating out almost every meal, while working incredibly hard for the good of the Church.  I wonder what would happen if while we were here at General Convention we modeled better stewardship for ourselves and our ministries.  What if we were able to practice self care in the midst of the episco-disco called General Convention?  What if we could show the Church and the world that there is more to work and ministry that seeing who can be the most productive on the least amount of sleep?

I wonder . . .

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A Reading for Holy Week

Today the House of Deputies considered Resolution A067: Revise Book of Common Prayer for Revised Common Lectionary [second reading].  Those of you who know me are probably not surprised to hear that I am not in favor of these revisions.  For the reasons listed below as well as issues with the psalms I spoke in opposition to the resolution.  Here is what I said:

IMG_1517Madame President, I rise in opposition to this resolution.
While the effort to conform our lections to that of the wider Christian community is a noble one, this process presents a problem to the wider continuity of our Holy Week liturgies.  First these lessons shift our traditional Anglican understanding of Holy Week, as some of the other communities using the RCL understand this important week differently than we do.  Secondly changing the lessons creates inconsistencies in the liturgies themselves.  By shifting the lessons we loose the continuity of the collect of the day and the readings.  It creates liturgies that are disjointed and confusing.
Another issue with these revisions is in regards to the gospel for Maundy Thursday.  The RCL lectionary removes the possibility of commemorating the first celebration of the Eucharist and only recognizes the foot washing – a ritual not every Episcopal congregation participates in.
We are looking at altering our most holy and sacred time in the life of the Church.  This is not something that should be taken lightly or done solely for the purpose of Unity.  If we dare to change these historic recovered liturgies we need to look at the whole of the liturgies not just the lesson.
I hope my fellow members of this house will keep in mind our unique Anglican ethos and identity as we consider a major change in these most solemn and holy occasions of our life together.
Because this was the second reading of a revision to the Book of Common Prayer (changing the lessons listed within the actual liturgies not just in the lectionary pages in the back of the book) it required a vote by orders.  As our deputation chair had taken the afternoon off I was serving as the acting chair.  While the Rhode Island deputation voted against the resolution, the resolution ultimately passed but by a smaller margin than I had anticipated.  In fact, the people who voted against this resolution out numbered those who voted against marriage equality.
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Think about that, more people voted against changing the lesson for Holy Week than those who voted against marriage equality – that says something pretty powerful about the state of The Episcopal Church.

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The Power of Silence

IMG_1508If you have not heard by now, let me be the first to tell you.  Today the Episcopal Church voted to amend the canonical definition of marriage and to authorize for use three liturgies for marriage including a gender neutral version of the marriage liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer.  For more information on the decisions check out the Episcopal News Service article here.

This decision wasn’t just another resolution we pushed through.  This work has been in process for 40 years.  At the last General Convention in 2012, we passed the liturgical resource “I will bless you and you will be a bless” for provisional use.  If you asked me before coming out to Salt Lake City what would happen with marriage I would have guess something along the lines of tweaks to the liturgy authorized in 2012 and a call for more study.  That is exactly what did not happen.

For the three previous General Conventions I have been following closely the debates regarding marriage equality.  Due to my own legislative committee I did not have the opportunity to attend the hearings.  But, I heard the attendance was drastically lower than previous years and only two people spoke against the equality resolutions.  For someone not involved with Integrity, it seemed that there was very little fuss about marriage equality – especially compared to previous years.  Things shifted yet again with the recent Supreme Court decision which I blogged about last week.  Once that decision was handed down, I had the sense that The Episcopal Church would follow right behind.  Frankly, how could we not.

A few days ago the resolutions made their way through the House of Bishops and were sent for concurrence to the House of Deputies.  Today at a time certain (which we were late for due to a continuation of the structure debates and a joint session for the presentation of the budget) the House of Deputies took up marriage equality in both canon and liturgy.  IMG_1507

The chair of the Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Music legislative committee issued their reports on the two resolutions.  We debated each resolution for twenty minutes and then the vote was taken.  There was a small handful of “conservative” dioceses that called for a Vote by Orders (one vote is cast per order per diocese – one vote for the lay order of each diocese and one vote for the clergy order of each diocese.  If three or four deputies vote in favor the order submits a yes vote, if the deputation splits two and two the vote is divided the vote counts as a no vote, and if one deputy or no deputies vote in favor the order submits a no vote.  Hope fully that doesn’t muddy the waters too much.)  The Vote by Orders added some drama to the situation.  The testimonies were powerful and passionate – all opinions did their best to push their way of thinking.  Tears were shed, people rejoiced, and some were saddened and disappointed.  But none of this is what I found the most striking. What was the most profound, what has been imprinted with me is the silence observed after each vote.

After each vote was cast, and before the results were announced, the President of the House of Deputies – Gay Clark Jennings – called the house to refrain from cheering so to recognize the diversity of opinions in the house.  I did not think the House and the visitors gallery would actually follow the directive.  But they did.

Before each vote we prayed, and when then the vote was announced the house was silent.

After the liturgical resolution we moved on to the canonical resolution and the same things happened.  At the end of the debate period, we prayed, voted by orders, the vote was closing, the vote closed, the vote was announced, and we were silent.  There was a serious in the House unlike I had ever experienced before.  As we transitioned from one resolution to the next, from liturgical to canonical and from canonical to the consent calendar there was something almost eerie about the house.  It was silent.  It was serious.  It was powerful.

I was keenly aware that I had just been apart of something historic, something that people will write about some day – the day The Episcopal Church officially supported marriage equality.  The day we changed our canons to say that all people no matter their biological sex can participate in the sacrament of marriage.

I have been in the house when amazing things, historic things happened that garnered the cheering of the house.  This was not one of those events and as a result of the silence this seemed more important.

The Silence of the afternoon carried me out of the session and off for the rest of my evening.  As I sit in my hotel room with nothing but the sound of the clicking keys on my computer I can’t help but be reminded of the silence and power in the house.  That power showed us at our best – celebrating all of God’s beloved children.  No matter how they voted on marriage equality.

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A Long Day with a Perfect Ending

It has been a long couple of days as we continue to make our way through almost 700 resolutions of this 78th General Convention.  Yesterday was a very busy day, testified to two different resolutions.  You can read my comments here and here. Today was likewise a long and busy day but for different reasons.

I want to stress one thing about today – It. Was. Long.

Here is the schedule for General Convention.  We're just a little busy

Here is the schedule for General Convention. We’re just a little busy.

Like any other day, today began with corporate worship.  Worship was followed by a joint session of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops to have a conversation around mission.  We spent two hours watching videos for each of the five marks of mission, and then as a Diocese discussing three questions per mark of mission.  To add to the conversation, the President of the House of Deputies allowed for alternates and the Episcopal Church Women to come on to the follow and join their respective diocese.  From RI we had a pretty large group – 2 bishops, 8 deputies, 2 alternates, and 3 members of ECW.  For those of you who do not know, the Five Marks of Mission are:

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

I thought some of the questions were pretty good, questions like, “what is the connection between outreach and evangelism?” and “What Diocesan structures are in place that enhance or impede mission?”  Unfortunately I did not find the time particularly helpful.  I’m all for the concept of what we did, but 12 minutes for 15 people to talk about 3 questions just isn’t enough.  I could imagine that a smaller group, with a little more time, could do some wonderful things with the exercise given to us today.  After two hours that session was drawn to a close with a presentation honoring the current Presiding Bishop.

After lunch it was back to the House of Deputies to get some work done.  We were slated to have a five-hour session.  Did I mention this was a long day? After prayer, and several points of personal privilege (a personal pet peeve of mine) we got to work.  After 3 hours we made it through 3 resolutions and some more presentations – including a presentation for the 75th Anniversary for Episcopal Relief and Development.  Then it was time to move to the structure resolutions.  This is where things came to a grinding halt, or at least that is what it felt like.  There was a presentation from the Chair of the Structure Committee, and then a period of twenty minutes for questions that the HoD extended to allow for 12 more questions.  Once all the questions were answered, we moved to debate only to discover that the material had not been properly translated – or translated at all for that manner.  So we tabled the conversation and moved on only to discover that the remaining resolutions for the day also lacked a translated version.  With around an hour of our session left we adjourned for the day to allow for translations to be completed.  It was incredibly frustrating, and I am not a deputy that needs the translation.  However, ending early allowed for many deputies to get to their seminary dinners on time.

One tradition at General Convention is that each Episcopal Seminary hosts a dinner for alum and current students.  The dinners serve as a fundraising opportunity for the schools and as a time to gather with others in fellowship.  Tonight was incredibly exciting for me personally as it was my first seminary dinner.  For the previous three triennia I have watched as my clergy colleagues have gone off to their respective dinners, and for the first time I was able to join.

Pictured with The Rt. Rev Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of Rhode Island & The Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, Dean of Berkeley Divinity School.  When did I get so short?

Pictured with The Rt. Rev Nicholas Knisely, Bishop of Rhode Island & The Very Rev. Andrew McGowan, Dean of Berkeley Divinity School. When did I get so short?

The Berkeley Divinity School dinner was held at a lovely hotel a half mile or so from my hotel.  We had an amazing meal, but more importantly I had the opportunity to talk with a wide variety of talented alumni.  The room was packed with bishops, priests, and laity; with alumni who graduated decades ago to current students like myself.  In every conversation about Berkeley, my Bishop, who in the interest of full disclosure is a BDS grad himself, told me of the amazing people I would study with and the amazing people I would stand in line with.  After tonight’s dinner I came to understand that in a new way.  Berkeley Divinity graduates are amongst some of the best and brightest in The Episcopal Church, all of whom are engaged in amazing things around the country and world.  It was an inspiring group to be amongst, and a humbling one as well.  In just two short years I will take my place as an alumnus of Berkeley Divinity School, there are some pretty large foot steps to follow.

Tomorrow is another day – day 7 to be exact.  There is a lot left to do.  Tomorrow’s agenda includes structure conversations, marriage debates, budget presentations to yet another joint session, and a slew of resolutions to consider.  It will be long, and I am confident that at times it will be frustrating.  But we are doing good work.

Please, please pray for us.  Pray for strength to persevere through the frustration and exhaustion.  Pray that we do not get bogged down and lose sight of what is really important.  Pray that we remember to be kind to one another.  Most importantly, pray that the may be open and receptive to how God is working in and through so that we may continue shaping and forming The Episcopal Church to go out and do the work God has given us to do.

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