Friday, July 06, 2012

General Convention Notes, Friday, July 6

Friday, June 6 -- General Convention Notes

7:30 a.m.  We opened our session of the Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music Committee with hearings on three resolutions of new liturgical resources -- "Liturgical Materials Honoring God in Creation," "Various Rites and Prayers for Animals" and "Daily Prayer for All Seasons." 

We heard enthusiastic testimony from people who have been experiencing the new Daily Prayer and the Creation liturgies.  We also heard from supporters of the animal liturgies who are appreciative of these pastoral resources, especially the liturgies at the death of a pet.

All three of these passed our committee and will be sent to the House of Bishops.

We proceeded to work on "Holy Women Holy Men."  We passed along the group of commemorations that had been proposed last Convention.  And we amended the main enabling resolution to ask the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to continue to work on revising the calendar recommendations with special attention to the principles for inclusion, asking the SCLM to continue their work of writing and editing.  All of the newly proposed commemorations were referred to the SCLM.

The committee also re-emphasized that the church encourages local observances of noted leaders of the past.  We have great latitude to be creative in our appreciation and remembrance of our "saints."  We expect continued use of HWHM and other newly created observances around the church even as the SCLM continues the editing process.

9:30 p.m.  Our Eucharist
Our observance of the day is for John Hus, Czech reformer and martyr.  Some of our music and our prayers were conducted in the Hmong language.  The Hmong are a people without their own country, a nomadic tribe living in the jungles of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China.  Members of a Minnesota congregation that has 700 Hmong members helped our worship.  There was an exquisite moment during the Lord's Prayer.  It is our custom to have everyone pray in our own native language.  After we had all finished, the Hmong Episcopalians were still chanting the Lord's Prayer in their language, which takes a bit longer than our spoken English prayer.  It was absolutely beautiful and holy to hear.

House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson was our preacher.  Her theme was "Courage," citing the example of John Hus. 

Quoting from Bonnie's sermon:  "C.S. Lewis reminds us that 'Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at its testing point.'
Courage animates all our virtues- honesty, confidence, humility, compassion, integrity, valor. Without courage, all these virtues lie dormant.

"There is no prescription for teaching courage. You may have noticed that courage 101 is not taught in school, or even in college, or even in seminary.
Even though, taught intentionally in school or not, all our lives, we are students of courage. We learn it from our parents, from friends, from role models like people in our Christian communities, from public figures who take courageous stands on important human rights concerns. We are students of courage all our lives. We read the wisdom of some early Christian mystical theologians who related that our spiritual journey embraces an essential conversion moving us from fear into abiding courage."

The resource of the Internet now allow us to be watchers of courage around the world.  We remembered the days when the Hmong of Laos suffered from Genocide from the Communist authorities there.

Bonnie asked us each to remember the first time you stood up for something.  Remember how challenging that was.  And how empowering.  Remember also those who have inspired you.  When one person acts in a courageous way, it can be inspirational to others -- courage is contagious. 

Courage needs to be exercised, and it gets stronger as we practice courage.  (Use it or lose it, my words.)  Bonnie got a laugh when she said, "We've got an edge as Episcopalians -- We are spiritual AND religious."

"...in the words of my friend Jeannie Wylie Kellerman, baptism requires 'obedience to our Lord's perverse ethic of vulnerability and gain through loss.'

11:00 a.m. -- Legislative Session
A fairly cranky session.  The House did not follow the committee recommendations on quite a few resolutions.  We passed resolutions encouraging the reading of the Bible in its entirety this year, affirming the compatibility of science and the Christian faith, to ask for representation for the District of Columbia, to reaffirm the Millennium Development Goals, and we  adopted moving toward a paperless General Convention.

Jenny Te Paa led our noonday prayers.  She spoke of the energy of this gathering and the sense of God's presence.  Yes!  She spoke of how much easier it is for her to experience God in these communal situations.  Can she also have that sense of presence in solitude and silence.  It's harder for her, she says.  But it can happen, with patience, if we stop talking.  A poem:   What would be our state, God, if we stopped talking?  I've written an email to Jenny asking her for a copy of the poem and I'll pass it along if she sends it.

1:00 p.m -- I went to a sack lunch with a presentation by Mote Magomba from Tanzania, telling about his work with street children.

2:00 p.m. -- Our Committee reconvened.  Some of our air went out when we learned that the House of Bishops had rejected the funding proposal for the meetings of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music.  That doesn't mean there will be no funding, but it seems that the bishops want to shift the process for our funding decisions.  Their action is related to the very significant conversations that are going on about re-visioning the structure of the General Convention and of the Episcopal Church.  Our committee deputized some of our officers to visit with PB&F (Program, Budget and Finance) to talk about the work of the SCLM.  There is concern in our committee that some bishops may have lost an interest in evangelical potential and energizing vitality that emerges through our church's liturgical prayer and private devotion.

We had one of those sessions that felt like it was bogging down and getting a bit chaotic.  And then, it was like a wind grabbed our sails.  We activated our four sub-committees -- three to work on the texts of the Creation liturgies, Daily Prayer resources, and the Blessings of Animals prayers, and our other sub-committee on Same-Gender Blessings met to draw up proposals for our public hearing tomorrow night. 

In the room next door the place was packed, with people in each door and spilling out into the hallway.  The Ministry Committee was having hearings on open communion, or the admission of unbaptized persons to communion.  There is a lot of energy around this.  And, it's particularly interesting that people are all over the map on this one in unpredictable ways.  Not the usual liberal/conservative or catholic/evangelical splits.

4:30 -- House of Deputies Legislative Session.  Some really tedious stuff.  Then an inspiring address from two of you members of the Youth Representation.  St. Paul's is proud that Maria Taylor is part of the representation and sitting on the floor every day with voice, but not vote.

The issue that seems to be generating the most energy is the topic "Structure."  I missed the hearing last night, and I have to confess I am pretty much in the dark about it so far.  Here is a link to the Episcopal News Service report of the hearing last night and of the Structure Committee's conversation today. 

After I read this report, I'm still as foggy as I was before.  I'm hoping for some clarity as people find some articulation for what specific problems they are trying to address and what possible solutions they want to propose.

This afternoon we considered a dramatic resolution instructing the Executive Committee to sell or rent the Church Center Building at 815 2nd Avenue, New York, City.  There is a foundation rattling spirit afoot.  We tabled the motion until after some of the Structure resolutions are dealt with.

We ended the day with the presentation of a bunch of new bishops whose elections were confirmed at this Convention.

The Arkansas Deputation went out to dinner tonight.  The restaurant's air conditioner was broken.  Good time.  Hot though.


Lowell



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