Thursday, December 3, 2009

Diocesan Convention

I have tried to start this post several times. Being a true extrovert, I have to discuss my thoughts before they have any meaning. This is tedious for my friends who are introverts and whose thoughts come fully-formed from the head of Zeus. But I have tried to get a handle on Central NY’s convention and it has eluded me.

First of all, there was far and away more energy at diocesan convention this year than I have noticed since 2002. Most of that energy emanated from ++Katharine Jefferts-Shori’s presence with us. But for the clergy, there was another level of energy that began with the funeral for Jim Jensen+ the night before convention began. The funeral was majestic and beautiful and healed some of the pain of the loss of Jim+. There was a sense that at least we could come together for the sake of his parish and his family and there was something immensely right about that. But ++Katharine had a gentleness about her that exuded calmness yet with a significant resolve about her to address the IMPORTANT issues facing the Church today. In some way she focused us on the mission of the Church in our presence and in our area. She shared with us the hope of Christ that she sees throughout the Church. It was refreshing and reinvigorating.

But once again the substance of convention consisted of word-smithing some changes in the canons. There were no statements of conscience about the war in Afghanistan. There was no discussion of the draconian measures sponsored by the Church of Uganda towards LGBT persons. There was no comment about unemployment in the upstate area. There was no engagement whatsoever in the lives of the people of upstate at all. That there was no discussion about the budget is not surprising because there seems to be so little life in the diocese that we cannot even float programs that do not require funding. It doesn’t cost money to love one another or share our love of Christ Jesus. But for some reason, there is no program.

The Eucharistic liturgy, however, was wonderful. I am still not pleased with the canceling of services in our parishes in order to have a big service that could not accommodate all who desired to come. But the actual service was quite well-done. The service followed the BCP. The music was accessible by all who attended. And the sound of the voices raised in praise of God filled the heart and soul. And the choir was stupendous. We all knew we had been to Church.

Having worked with the Lutherans for the past few years I have come to understand how important a musical tradition is to a large body of people is. Episcopalians and Lutheran both SING. We have rich but different musical traditions that provide the glue that holds our liturgy together. The combined choir was an important piece of that worship. The choir directors of the Cathedral, St. David’s, Dewitt and Grace, Utica provided us with a sense of the musical tradition of TEC that many of us in smaller congregations do not get. I do hope that this kind of attention to the liturgy was not just because of the presence of the PB. I hope that we have learned that we can field a good choir and that such collaboration is the kind of ministry that the Church can do with little cost but with great reward. I would hope that we could also sing hymns at the various offices that are celebrated during convention. But most of all, Kudos to all those who planned and participated in the liturgy!

But we have a long way to go to heal the fear and distrust that has permeated this diocese. Much of that distrust came about during a phenomenon that has gripped our whole communion. While we struggled with the issues of biblical interpretation, human sexuality, ideology, theology many were wounded on both sides of the issues. Time does not heal those wounds. They need to be discussed in open forums—we do not need to recapitulate the issues; we need to touch the wounds with the incarnational presence of Christ.

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