Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tue AM 1st Eucharist , 1st Session

Tuesday, June 13, Day 2, 12:30 a.m

Committee meetings began at 7:30 this morning. Our Prayer Book and Liturgy Committee polished a fine alternative to the Prayer Book's Celebration of New Ministry reflecting a the shared ministry of all the baptized as we welcome a new rector or other congregational leader. If passed the rite will be in the Enriching Our Worship under the title The Renewal of Ministry with the Welcoming of a New Rector (and "Rector" is in quotes, so it can be used flexibly).

The opening Eucharist of Convention began at 9:30. We used the lections for the Holy Spirit. Presiding Bishop Griswold preached.

Bishop Griswold opened with the express desire that we seek the mind of Christ. "It is dangerous to invoke the Holy Spirit. What if we were taken seriously?" he said. It may be that the Spirit may ask us for more than we want to give. After Jesus' baptism, the Spirit drove him into the wilderness. In that place, Jesus said that his food would be to do the will of God. With that he initiated his ministry of reconciliation, which led him to the costly place of the cross. From the cross, Jesus holds us in an "unrelenting cosmic embrace."

Our Gospel was Luke's "ask, seek, knock" passage, which concludes "how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" Ask, seek, knock, said the Presiding Bishop. "How much more will God give the Holy Spirit? How much more will God give us unfolding truth. How much more will God give us unbounded love." (may not be an exact quote) He quoted the Galatians "fruit of the spirit" and challenged us, "How much more of the fruits of the Holy Spirit will we be able to bear?"

The Bishop wondered, when the prophet Isaiah announced "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me," might Isaiah have felt uncomfortable about what the Spirit was calling him to. Did he welcome the call to "bring good news to the oppressed." Possibly it was the Spirit pushing him toward the new demands of the Spirit. Jeremiah complained to God, "You have overpowered me!"

At this convention we have many points of view, many different hopes, and many who carry anxiety. We say that whatever that may be, these are expressions of Christ.

Bernard of Clairvaux taught that we must study "both the book of Scripture and the book of experience to read the marks of the Spirit." When we read these two books, we discover tensions. That reality means that we must exercise patience and generosity of spirit. Persons of genuine faith can disagree, yet we can maintain "the unity of spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians)

Bishop Griswold invoked the Holy Spirit, inviting each of us to invoke the Spirit to ask "what do I bring to this convention? What attitudes, opinions...?" We can we driven by urgencies that are unconscious. Ask the Spirit to raise these urgencies to our consciousness. Ask the Spirit for deeper knowledge. We will be given by the Spirit greater awareness, especially greater awareness of the gifts each of us bring. What gifts do I bring to this convention? Finally, the Bishop asked us to place what the Spirit gives us in our hands, and to extend our hands in offering to God.

Following the sermon, we had a Bible Conversation Time at the tables. Part of what I shared referenced the reading from Isaiah 61, which speaks of "good news to the oppressed," and binding up "the brokenhearted." As we read those words, two groups of friends, with real names and faces, came to my mind. Among those feeling oppressed and brokenhearted are friends who feel like their church has left them, that it has abandoned the orthodox faith and abused the Anglican Communion. Also among those who have felt oppression and broken heartedness within the church for their whole lives are many gay and lesbian friends. What I want is for both of those groups to be bound together in the Good News.

It is a wonderful thing to celebrate in Eucharistic worship with over 2,000 people. I found myself moved as we sang together. There was a Spirit of such earnestness and affection present. A solo violin played during part of the communion. Evocative projection pictures of images of original art works stimulated a sense of the Spirit as imagined in paint, sculpture, and glass. It was beautiful. I wondered. How hard might it be for those who intend to leave this beautiful church to be here touched by the liturgy and art of our shared worship. Our love of this church is deeply rooted. As has been the case for several conventions, there are some members of convention who do not participate in the convention Eucharists. They conduct an alternative service which is structured to be more consistent with their beliefs. For those who are there rather than here, especially those who plan to leave this communion, their absence would spare them pain, I can imagine. And yet, I also wondered, were they here, might the compelling power of the Eucharist be an opening for the movement of the Spirit toward reunion?

Just after 11:15 the House of Deputies convened for the first time. The first orders of business are procedural and organizational.
Among the first dignitaries who had a role in the organizing were Pan Adams, chair of PB&F to move one election, and our won Harriet Neer, President of the Episcopal Church Women who are meeting nearby in their Triennial.

We've got the best seats in the enormous hall. One the back row, next to the water cooler and nearest to the bathrooms. We're also the closest delegation to the exit for quick getaways and early positions in lunch lines, and sitting next to the Youth delegation with their alternating bursts of energy and strained expressions of boredom. Great place to be.


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Keep us in your prayers.

The Rev. Lowell Grisham
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Clergy Deputy to General Convention


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