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Revived

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry, was in Kansas City over the past few days for a revival.

I realize this sounds highly un-Episcopalian.  As I commented to someone afterwards, I was not raised to worship outside, to sing Jesus songs while clapping, or to raise my hands unless at the altar.  These things were unseemly and altogether too Baptist to be borne.

However, yesterday afternoon found me outside, in a public city square, cheering on a sermon as the head bishop of my church urged us all to get out there and reclaim the word “Christian.”  Will wonders never cease.

I admit to being a cradle Episcopalian with some trepidation–like pandas raised in the wild, we’re increasingly rare, and that’s not a bad thing.  The more the church becomes a refugee camp for those seeking solace from the terrors of the world, then the more it’s doing its job, perhaps.  However, I am a convert to the idea that we actually need to speak openly about our faith in Jesus.  I am a convert to evangelism as being A Thing.

But I have come to realize that we need to attach words to this hope that is in us.  That we need to learn how to explain to others why we care so deeply about faith, because it is, in fact, something they need to hear.  Why is it that my little church devotes so much of its time and energy to an enormous food pantry?  Why did my youngest parishioners show up yesterday morning to eagerly hand silverware to our pantry guests so they could eat a hot meal?  Why do we pray daily for the famine in South Sudan, and write our representatives at the UN, urging them to seek an end to that situation?  Why do we care so much?

For most of my life, I thought it went without saying.  That I did just what anyone would do, if they had time, or thought about it, or slowed down, or something.  Lately, I have realized that this is not true.  I live my life this way–my church acts this way– because I believe this is what Jesus wants of me.  Jesus wants me to feed the hungry.  And to fight for the poor.  And to make sure the sick are cared for.  That’s what Jesus asked of me, and because I love Jesus, I must do that.  Because we follow Jesus, this is what we do.

This isn’t true of everyone.  And by that, I don’t mean that Muslims don’t fight for the poor.  (Boy howdy, do they ever.  I’d like to introduce you to the women who staff KC for Refugees sometime if you’d like to dispute this.) Or that Jewish people don’t worry about the hungry, or that atheists or agnostics don’t worry about the poor.  They all can and frequently do.

What I mean is that there are people who choose to live selfishly.  To live as if their personal lives and wellbeing is the most important thing in the universe, and seek to structure the world around THAT belief, rather than any other.  Let the poor starve; I have enough food.  Let the sick get sicker, my staff and I will have care. And even worse, there are times when these people cloak their selfishness in the name of the Jesus I follow, as if that makes their selfishness more palatable, instead of a grave slander.

What the presiding bishop reminded me (aside from the fact that I really should use this blog for stuff other than sermons) is that we have an important story to tell, we Jesus people.  The world needs to hear that Jesus isn’t a free pass for selfishness and hatred; Jesus wants us to live for others, and to love each other. And that’s just as easy and as hard as it’s always been.

There are times when you need someone to preach to you, so that you remember the truth, and this was one of those times.  So thanks, Bishop Curry.  Let’s go tell our story.

 

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Home again, Home again

I have now returned from my month-long string of conferences.  First CREDO in north-central Florida, then General Convention in Salt Lake City.  Both amazing, both exhausting in their own ways.

(Though–a protip–there’s really no better way to head into the onslaught of stress that is General Convention than a good CREDO.  But the bliss from your massage will disappear by day 3.)

I tweeted a lot, as you may have noticed.  Unlike last Convention, the House of Twitter was quite full this year, and we had a great time together watching the livestream from home, or commenting on legislation from the floor from the Alternates Paddock.  This was especially helpful on days when we waded into the parliamentary weeds for 45 minutes at a time.

I also wrote some things, though not for the blog.  I mentioned in the last post that I would be writing for Deputy News, and indeed I did.  Here is what I wrote (in reverse chronological order, to keep you on your toes!):

I believe: On how the Episcopal Church is overcoming its crisis of confidence.  And also about the Book of Mormon.

Hanging out in #gc78: On how the Twitter community formed during Convention. Also the likelihood of a robot takeover.

Then I’ll Sing, ‘Cause I’ll know : On witnessing a history-making week, and why everyone should listen to Nina Simone

A day in the life: Praying to lose control: On the Acts8 evening prayer service, and listening to the WeMo teens talk about resurrection

General Convention and Episcopal Jeopardy!: On the process of hearing from the Presiding Bishop candidates, and the whimsical nature of gameshows (NB: a deputy came up to me after this was published and critiqued my Jeopardy metaphor, with great seriousness.  He argued that it should be Bingo, as any game aficionado would know.  So, kindly consider the Jeopardy metaphor redacted.)

A Day in the Life: Megan is a Guinea Pig:  On the triumphs of being a legislative aide, and how we should all respect the spirituality of Hermes from Futurama.

Avengers, Pandas descend on Salt Lake City: On the resemblance of Episcopalians to both the Avengers and pandas.

 

I wrote a lot during Convention (I’m just now realizing) and one of the weirdest and best parts of the experience for me was having person after person approach me, shake my hand, and say that they read my tweets, or read my articles.

I forget that people read this, or that anyone outside of my parents and one or two very dedicated sermon fans read this.

So, thank you again for reading.  You are amazing and wonderful and a delight to write for!

 

Magic book

I got my first prayer book when I was 9.  It’s white, gold, and sparkly (or it was those things.)  I loved that thing. 

As a child, I thought of the prayer book as something approaching magic.  It had an answer for EVERYTHING.  It somehow knew what the priest would do in the service!  When we would all stand, when we would all sit!  And if I wanted, it put the whole service in the palm of my hand.

(So many weddings were performed on my Barbies.  So many.)

There are many reasons why I’m Episcopalian: we’re Catholic, yet still reforming ourselves.  We’re Protestant, yet not so zealous that we tossed out all the babies in the bathwater.  We are charismatic, orthodox, and progressive, and any manner of high-flying ideals—but on any given Sunday, what that means is this: the Altar Guild will care about getting the brass clean to preserve the beauty of holiness, and another 100 people are fed from a food pantry because Jesus said so, and the choir will twist itself into knots working out the Tallis anthem, but that’s actually what it comes down to.

That’s the main reason I’m Episcopalian: because this tradition truly adores people.  Not just some people, and not just the idea of Humanity, but honest-to-God people.  Anglicanism emphasizes the Incarnation to such an extent that all people become so important, since God blessed us with the divine presence.  So we talk about human reason as part of how we read Scripture.  We promise to seek and serve Christ in each person at baptism. We talk seriously about each person’s vocation and call to serve in the world. 

And most staggeringly, we put the book that binds the whole thing together in everyone’s hands. There’s no secret priest manual in this church.  There’s just a book of prayers that anyone can read, and follow along for themselves. If you can read, you can have all the prayers the priest does.  You can hold all that the smartest minds in the Anglican Communion have figured out over the centuries have figure out over the years in the palms of your hands.  All the poetry, theology, ritual, and quirky stuff that we’ve accrued is yours, because you’re a beloved child of God, first and foremost.  

And for all of our struggles, and our occasional in-fighting, Anglicanism lives and breathes that idea.

By the waters of ?

Because I may like footnotes a little too much (there had to be an intervention when I was writing my undergrad thesis), I cut a lot from the footnote at the bottom of the post from the other day.

Joyfully for all of you, I wrote more on the are-we-in-Babylon?-issue and posted it to the Acts 8 Moment blog.

A sample:

People who identify as Christian do not lack access to the levers of power in this country.  The disappearance of Christendom doesn’t come from a lack of power; it stems from a lack of authority.  And authority in the 21st century derives from authenticity: to what degree we live up to what we preach and teach–a very, very different thing from raw power.
Go read the rest of it, if you wish, here.