As I write, the Episcopal church of America has come together for its 77th General Convention. Bishops and deputies from all over this country and throughout the world have joined for nine days of hard work, renewing worship, a wonderful chance to share resources and time to reconnect with good friends.
Three years ago I boarded a plane with my dear friend, Frankie, and journeyed to Anaheim California for the 76th General Convention. I remember that time with a grateful heart and a spirit stirred with questions and passion – seeking inspiration on how we look ahead to express our faith by word and action in this time of history. No one can prepare you for this experience. Grand halls and meeting rooms overflow with people as topics are discussed that affect the life and practice of our faith community.
There are many disagreements. Yet today we are standing on the edge of a new horizon. A horizon that calls us to expand our vision and prepare for change. Our divisions continue to stress our conversations and the spirit, as always, moves us forward. Our church has come together again, knowing that the changes before us will be challenging, requiring sacrifice and grace. My prayer – we can find a common ground–rich with the fruit of God’s Spirit and supplied with the tools needed to build a bridge that will carry us safely across this time of transition.
I am reminded of the wise words by Rumi: ‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.’ It is in this field that I believe we are called to gather.
The picture I share below was taken from the last General Convention.
In a moment outside of time I experienced the ‘field’, Rumi describes with such grace. Offering the homily during noonday worship – the Archbishop of Canterbury shared reflections charged with hope and concern, and I felt the tension of our common faith and current differences. The larger (world-wide) Anglican church was watching this convention with critical eyes. Passion and opinion was everywhere.
As is norm, during the service we were welcomed to exchange the peace – I was close to the front greeting those around me. Turning, I faced this man of great stature, who with a sense of awkward isolation was looking my way. Dressed in all his splendor and towering above a room filled for worship, the Archbishop of Canterbury dropped to his knees and reached over the edge of the stage to share God’s peace with me. “Thank you for coming.” I said. “Thank you for having me.” was his response. Surrounded by the noise of disagreement and unrest, for a moment all was quiet. Unaware of anything else I found myself where no words were needed – our world was full.
Since that time this picture has been a reminder for me–a reminder that God’s ability to bridge division should never be underestimated. We are called again and again to seek out one another in that field of quiet peace. This is what we are given and this is what we build on.