Well happy b-day to Rosemari Sullivan (Secretary of General Convention.) She and I have the same birthday. Members of the Bethlehem deputation went out to a birthday celebration with me tonight at Murray’s Steakhouse (a truly famous landmark.)
I have so many impressions of this day. I’m just going to list them in basically chronological order.
The Eucharist this morning was astonishingly beautiful. The music was powerful and moving. There’s something about the massed voices of 5000 people singing in harmony with organ and bell choir that simply must be a foretaste of what heaven is going to be like.
After the service four of us (who didn’t have committee meetings) went out to grab a bite to eat. There were clergy and lay people everywhere. No matter where you turned you’d run into somebody you knew, and yet another conversation would be started as you talked about where you were in your life at the moment. It was like seeing the best part of a promenade – but in the middle of the morning, with bishops and leaders of the church everywhere you looked. Bishop Paul Moore once wrote about how deeply he loved this funny little church of ours. I never understood what he meant by little until today. It feels little – intimate actually – though it isn’t all that small in fact. Certainly not in spirit or in faith given the events that have transpired here.
I once went to General Convention in Philly – on the day that the Presiding Bishop was elected. I remember sitting in the gallery waiting for the announcement about who had been selected. That was crowded. Today was mobbed. The room was jammed and the gallery was standing room only. People had been sitting in the room from early this morning until the House of Deputies began its work. The back of the hall was filled with TV cameras and reporters. Somebody had even setup a little TV studio in the very back of the room – and I saw the anchor sitting under the bright lights waiting like the rest of us to know what was going to happen.
Once we began the work of the debate, people moved quickly to the microphones. The two lines (pro and con) stretched all the way around the room. So many people got into line that there was no way that they could hope that they would be able to actually testify, given the short time we had alloted for the debate the day before. But maybe it was enough for them to be able to stand in line – witnessing in that small way to their peers about where they stood on the question. The lines were so long that they ended up overlapping in the back of the room. In any other place I might have worried about people getting on each other while they waited – but there was none of that here. We disagree, but we love and respect each other. Please God – let this be a witness to the rest of the world about how people united in Christ can behave.
In the middle of the debates people sitting near me (and myself included) started to pray. I pulled out the prayer beads that I had found in the chapel at Trinity last week and started to hold them in my hand while I read the service of the Ordination of a Bishop in the Prayer Book. When I put my beads down, the person sitting next to me asked if she use them for a while. We shared the prayer beads and we shared our prayers. Then we voted.
At our seminary dinner last night the seminary faculty handed out little pins of the Berkeley crest. The motto of the school is printed on the bottom: “In illa qua ultra sunt” (Into the regions beyond – or – Into the unknown.) I decided that was what I wanted to have on me today – a statement of faith that God is leading our church into a place we’ve not been before. But it wasn’t the first time something like this has happened. In fact it’s happened again and again in the life of our congregation – and it happened again today. God asks us to be faithful, even if we’re afraid. The first missionaries in America knew this – and now maybe my generation will know this too. God is sovereign and God’s will can not be frustrated. So into the unknown! God is calling us to a new adventure of love and ministry. I couldn’t think of a better slogan for what has happened today…
My favorite line as we continued with the work of Convention while we waited for the results of the vote: We can’t confirm this action on the part of the House of Bishops – the software we’re using to run this convention won’t accept the word “confirmation” when we type it in. I’m sure there’s a message in that somewhere.
When the message came that the House has consented to Robinson’s election there where no demonstrations other than smiles and tears quietly shared between friends. No one wanted to gloat – and no one wanted to make this harder for each other than it already has been. It was our church at its best. Disagreeing and yet loving. Finding something to build unity upon in the midst of things that we know we divide at this moment.
I spent the last part of the night visiting with friends of mine who are part of the AAC and talking with them about their feelings. While we sat in front of our hotel a young (apparently homeless) man came up and asked us for 2 dollars so he could get a bed for the night at one of the local missions. We pooled our resources and came up with the money – and then we talked with him about how God speaks to us all. He told us (3 priests) about how God had recently come and spoken to him in a dream. And how he knew that God was an awesome God – who wanted us to know and to love each other.
Thanks for the message – and the angel God. It been a day when we’ve been reminded that you are always near at hand – and you come to us in people and ways that we don’t expect.