I spent the last week serving as an Alternate to the General Convention (GC) of our Episcopal Church. For those unfamiliar with how the Episcopal Church is structured, the GC meets every three years. Like the United States Congress, the GC consists of two houses, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The House of Bishops consists of … all the bishops. The House of Deputies consists of four clergy people and four lay people from each diocese in the Church. Fun fact: the GC is the second largest bicameral legislature in the world, the first being the Parliament of India. Our deputies from Mississippi are elected by Annual Council. I came in sixth in that election, so I am the Second Alternate Deputy from the clergy order. Exciting, eh?
The first few days of GC have been a whirlwind. I am amazed at the vastness and diversity of the Church; however, I am also amazed by how many friends and colleagues are here. Our Church is a wild and loving family! We have worshiped together, twenty five different committees have met, our deputation has lunched to brief one another on our various activities, the Exhibit Hall has been explored, and the two houses have met to organize themselves and begin to consider legislation.
A highlight for me thus far has been our Presiding Bishop’s Opening Address. He is always a dynamic speaker, but one of his images particularly struck me. He considered the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the words being written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861, and he meditated on the first line of the second stanza, “I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps.” He then riffed on the phrase “I have seen Him” and expounded on the many places he has seen God at work during his tenure thus far. Plagiarizing outrageously, I have seen God too, at GC in number of ways:
I have seen Him in the faces of my fellow deputies, so many of whom are different than mine.
I have seen Him in our worship, from the joyous offerings of Texan musicians to the laments of victims of clergy abuse.
I have seen Him in deep laughter with old friends and beloved mentors.
I have seen Him in prophetic stories about truth, justice, and reconciliation.
I have seen Him in our MIssissippi deputation whose dedication to this work is inspiring.
I have seen Him in passionate testimony during committee meetings (and I disagreed with a lot of it!).
I have seen Him in the grins of clergy dorks and church geeks riding electric scooters around downtown Austin.
I have seen Him in the hospitality of the volunteers from the Diocese of Texas.
II have seen Him in the Presiding Bishop’s #wayoflove initiative, inviting Episcopalians to a deeper relationship with Christ through various spiritual practices.
I have seen Him in breakfast tacos.
I have seen Him in a Church that sincerely desires to love a fractious and complicated world.
Where have you seen God this week? I pray your encounter was as energizing as mine. Please pray for the GC of your Church. We need all the help we can get!