Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Celebrating who we are, but recognizing that we can't be that forever

I've had a little trouble getting connected from Anaheim, but sitting here just before the opening legislative session of the House of Deputies seems like a good time to jot a note--digitally speaking, of course.

General Convention has a marvelous continuity from one session to the next. This is the third GC I've attended, and the Convention Center looks the same, the setup is the same, even the people seem the same. And when we speak of the last GC, we have a hard time not saying, "last year," as if only one year had passed since Columbus. It feels, too, like a family reunion, and it's good to see the friends and colleagues with whom we have worked in one part of the Church or another. Welcome home.

But there is also a sense of the surreal. In spite of our "diversity," which we hold up as a an opportunity for evangelism, we all look largely the same. Walking the streets of Anaheim, I see strangers and can recognize them as Episcopalians here for the Convention. The clergy look alike, albeit in different "styles." And when we listen to people address us at various events, they all speak in a sort of lofty, self-conscious and intellectual voice. And this concerns me deeply.

If the Episcopal Church is to grow into God's dream for us, then we MUST learn to speak plainly to the people we have been sent to serve. We can't prove to one another that all our words have four syllables. We can't try to outdo one another in eloquence. We have to stop being so in love with our own "Beauty of Holiness." I count myself among them. I, too, love eloquence and our beautiful worship. I strive to take a different perspective, though.

The people with whom I worship every week at St. Luke's, Cleveland, would be aliens here. They don't have the right clothes. They don't speak the right English. They don't appreciate the most beautiful parts of our Anglican heritage for the right reasons.

It is lovely to be here, participating in this institutional phenomenon, and I love this Episcopal Church. But I pray that we can stop worshiping our own Anglican Identity, and get on with the work we've been given: To serve Jesus in the poor, and to make space for the less-than-eloquent children of God.

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