Saturday, July 7, 2012

Radical In-hospitality Begins Far Away from the "Table"

I rise to speak against all legislation concerning the “open table” at this 77th General Convention because I find it radically hypocritical.

I absolutely agree that radical in-hospitality is a primary reason for our declining membership, but it’s not the inhospitality of the Sacraments, or even of the institutional Episcopal Church. It is the inhospitality of our members that keeps people from coming back.

The Sunday morning gauntlet of inhospitality

My husband and I have visited many, many episcopal parishes—throughout our own diocese of Ohio, in Europe, New York, Alabama, West Virginia, California, and more—and every visit, I am sad to say, goes in essentially the same way
  1. We walk through the doors and a greeter hands us a bulletin, barely pausing in his conversation with the other greeter. They do not ask us our names or acknowledge that we’re visiting.
  2. We sit down in a pew (and I have to struggle with the kneelers because my knee does not bend).
  3. People are speaking softly with each other, but no one talks to us.
  4. The worship begins, and during the first hymn, people suddenly notice that we’re there because we sing. Loudly.
  5. At the Peace, and certainly after the Eucharist, members of the choir rush up to us and say, “Oh, you have a beautiful voice. You HAVE to join the choir…” But they do not introduce themselves, nor do they ask our name.
  6. Nor do they tell us how pleased they are that after researching thoroughly the question of where we will worship, we chose their parish above any other to visit.
  7. Rarely do they ask us to come back, and never what we’re doing for lunch that day.
You see, I feel radically unwelcome before we ever get to the Table, and I’m an Episcopalian. I know that I am welcome at Christ’s Table. I also understand clearly that my husband and I am unwelcome in our parishes when we visit.

But that's only the part that we could FIX TODAY...

Our radical indifference toward the stranger in our worship is only an aspect that we could fix immediately, if we chose to do. It is compounded by far more systemic and structural inhospitalities that will be harder for us to overcome.
  • Our music is inhospitable to the present generation’s musicality.
  • Our buildings are inhospitable to the differently abled.
  • Our penchant for quiet decorum during worship is inhospitable to children.
  • Our lovely, poetic texts are inhospitable to the uneducated and illiterate.
  • Our socioeconomic culture is inhospitable to the poor.
  • Our distinctively American view of the world is inhospitable to non-American parts of the Episcopal Church.
  • Our overly-intellectual approach to justice is inhospitable to those who are oppressed. (After all, we don’t really want to hug people who smell bad to us, even if they are Jesus in our midst.)
My sisters and brothers in Christ, I chose the Episcopal Church over all the other denominations in which to live out my Baptism in Jesus, and I adore it to my bones. It is time, however, for us to grab ourselves by the scruff of our necks and give a vigorous shake. We are about as unfriendly and inhospitable—as individual communities of Christians—as it is possible to be. Time to tell ourselves the truth.

If I thought for one moment that only our theology of Baptism and Eucharist stood in the way of radical hospitality, I might support the idea of the “open table,” but I want to say that we are guilty of much more bald-faced sins toward the stranger.

If you want to be radically hospitable, invite the homeless into your home for lunch. Christ sits at that table every day. THAT is the table that needs to be opened.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Elizabeth Moosbrugger Honored at TENS Awards

Elizabeth McKay Moosbrugger  (St. Paul's, Cleveland Heights) was one of four people honored tonight at the TENS (The Episcopal Network for Stewardship) Awards Ceremony. Elizabeth was the recipient of a TENS award for her leadership of the "Bricks for Haiti" campaign in our diocese, which raised money for Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2005 earthquake destroyed much of the cathedral. Sixty nine of our parishes were involved in "buying bricks" for Haiti, raising more 115% of our financial goal.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church began meeting in General Convention in 1872. This year—the 77th General Convention—will gather more than 6,000 deputies, bishops, visitors, staff, and media together in Indianapolis. Convention officially begins with a Community Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. on July 5.

Running through July 12, this Convention will present a fiscal challenge that may permeate the whole eight days. The triennial budget for 2013 through 2015 was developed by a committee of Executive Council, instead of originating at the Church Center, and was based in part on a survey of church leaders. The committee used the results to propose a budget suggesting how and where ministries will continue.

The Diocese of Ohio is well represented at this convention. In addition to our deputies, Julia Robinson of Christ Church, Oberlin, was chosen as one of the two Official Youth Presence from Province V at General Convention. The Rev. Gay Jennings (St. Timothy’s, Macedonia), a member of Executive Council, is running for President of the House of Deputies. The Rev. Alan James, Canon to the Ordinary, is a candidate for Executive Council.

Concurrently, the National Episcopal Church Women will hold its 47th Triennial Meeting. A highlight of the Triennial Meeting is the United Thank Offering Ingathering and Eucharist, which will be held on Sunday, July 8.