It was my first General Convention, and the 2009 Anaheim Episcopalooza was something that brought many lessons home to me. Though I have a "normal" secular job in the IT world, with employees and customers across the nation that depend on our services and products, I am drawn to matters of faith, unity, and diversity of opinion. As such, though I only attended three days of the conference, I in spirit paid a great deal of attention to the tweets and press releases arising just a mere 30 miles away from my Pasadena offices.
Rather than bringing form to these many lessons, here are some highlights, memories, and opinions that I dare not forget.
1. Integrity Eucharist service - see other blog posting.
2. Bishop Barbara Harris - what a sermon! I've never fully experienced Father Ed Bacon's comments at my All Saints Pasadena parish until now: I indeed had a "Glory Attack" during her talk.
3. The faces of joy, wonder, and awe of the congregants at the service. People were visibly moved and filled with the Holy Spirit. I came in thinking that these church politicians would be somewhat distant and reserved but was surprised at their reaction to the rather evangelical fever of that night.
4. There are many more small progressive churches across this nation than I had imagined. I heard witness from rectors and priests describing their efforts for social justice, in places I would have considered inhospitable to such notions.
5. The exhibit hall carried gorgeous, marvelous, luxurious textiles. I only suspected this in the past, but I think I need to freely come out of the closet as an Altar Guild-oriented, gold-thread loving aurumvestiophile (priestly drag queen)... Those garments and altar coverings and wall hangings were so beautiful and inspiring. Art clearly has its place in the church, as it so quickly stimulates our attention to the movements of the Holy Spirit.
6. The House of Deputies was the upper house? It was so rowdy and loud and confusing. It's the clergy and laity, and they clearly want to be heard. The only problem is there are a lot of people that need to be heard.
7. The House of Bishops was the lower house? It was so subdued and clubby. During the debate over blessings, my mind fantasizing a scene that I have previously pondered: the Board of Directors at Augusta debating what would happen if an African-American golfer ever would win it all at the Masters.
8. Asian-Americans? There were Asian-Americans at the convention in the exhibit hall. Outside of the exhibit hall, well, they were at Eucharist. But I still definitely feel outnumbered at the convention. It's more of recognition on my part that the urban and coastal states have far more Asian-Americans than the rest of the country and that national organizations such as this church highlight that regionalism.
9. Wonderfully helpful clergy. Father Jim Newman of St Bede's (Los Angeles) practically dragged me to the House of Bishops debates and answered all my questions regarding the proceedings. He recognized my understanding and interest in the Parliamentary procedures and encouraged me to consider participation at the diocesan convention. More importantly, he introduced me to Bishop Barbara Harris (see #2).
10. Bishop Steven Charleston - Another amazing sermon, this time on the environment. I must agree that a tremendous amount of energy is spent fighting battles that distract us from real issues at hand.
11. Why aren't Episcopalians recognized for their sermons and marvelous theology in action? We need to convince our non-Episcopalian colleagues that old stereotypes just don't fit with much of our church today.
12. Twitter mania. Found so many interesting uses of twitter at this convention. Thanks to the oppressed opposition in Iran for showing us how Twitter can organize people in such an organic way. And thanks to: @integrityusa @johnclint @revsusanrussell @episcopalcafe @vagabondfaith @josephpmathews
13. Lunch-hour Eucharist had a funny moment for me on one day. I stretched out my palms during communion and was handed the Host from large loaf of bread. Not an unusual occurrence, expect this piece was about the size of 1/2 bagel. I clearly did not know how to handle such a large "wafer". I must have been staring at the bread as I walked to the chalice, because the chalice bearer sort of giggled at the look of fear in my eye. And let it be said, I've never looked at the communion bread with fear before or doubt I ever will again. "I could use some butter" passed through my head. After a few moments I eventually was able to take the wine. Note to self: Ask someone about proper protocol if someone chokes on the holy Host.
14. There were many interesting brochures from the various Episcopal seminaries. I continue to assess, ponder, and pray about my needs and calling. For yes, I am feeling called, and it frightens me.
Back to my comments about distraction from real issues at hand. I definitely think that discrimination hurts the church's missions. But I think this not because of issues regarding institutional preservation or institutional integrity. I think it hurts the evangelical nature of the church and those of us who want to make the church do something.
The young people of today care deeply about things that they consider secular. They are energetic, passionate, and well educated. They are also more liberal and frighteningly worldly (thanks to the Internet?). If we are to enlighten them of the saving power of Christ, if we are to maintain stewardship over our earth and help those in need, then we cannot afford to scare off the young and marginalize the outcasts. If all are welcome at this table, then all are needed to bring in the harvest.
All hands on deck people, we have some important work to do!