In 2008 I went to the Dominican Republic for a 5-day meeting as part of a Christian formation task force for the Episcopal Church. Hurricane Gustav had just ravaged the island of Hispañola, leaving a path of destruction of landslides and destroyed homes. Before we flew in, we knew we could take two pieces of luggage for free – but did we need that much baggage for a short visit? Each of us decided to bring a large duffle bag full of disposable diapers as our 2nd bag. The Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic distributed them to churches to then give to families in need.
For the past fifteen-plus years (minus 2020 & 2021) during the month of August, John and I (and often our adult children) have journeyed to new places to experience the breadth and depth of other countries, having spent the first 25 years of our marriage traveling within the United States from coast to coast. It is a privilege to be able to “take off” time and afford these trips; we acknowledge that few people can do such type of travel. These adventures broaden our understanding of the world – geographically, culturally, politically, and environmentally.
About six months ago I was invited to the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (western Washington state) to deliver a keynote address for their annual Better Together Christian formation event. I was asked to speak about where I saw the church heading in the future based on my 40+ years of experience in formation, drawing upon what I had seen and learned along the way. I entitled it Faith Formation in a Changing Church: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future. My intention was to share a little history of Christian education in the church through the lens of four generations of my family. I planned to talk about my perception of how the church needed to adapt to a new reality in the twenty-first century. How would my granddaughter (a fifth generation – the Alpha generation) be formed in faith?
Little did I know that much of my preparation in talking about the “future” would become the present. A week before I was scheduled to fly to Seattle, the area became a COVID-19 hotspot. Twenty-four hours in advance, Bishop Rickel made the decision to cancel all diocesan events where more than fifty people would be present. I cancelled my flight and said a prayer.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since (reportedly) 1,300 Episcopalians and friends met in Atlanta, Georgia for what was subversively called Episcopalooza or “General Convention with workshops, but no legislation.” The brainchild of Bill Campbell, former Executive Director of Forma: The Network for Christian Formation this conference brought together various cohorts within the Episcopal Church (and beyond) to explore formation, evangelism, preaching, leadership, mission, stewardship, and communications. A massive undertaking with a lot of behind the scenes work from many individuals, it was the Church at its best. Worship was extraordinary, workshops were inspiring and informative, creativity was abundant, and Jesus was proclaimed. Even the hotel staff got in on the action and “rooted for Jesus.”
It was too much to digest and while I got to see LOTS of friends and colleagues, I missed many opportunities to network or attend presentations because I couldn’t be at two (or three) places at once. Thankfully, many presentations were live-streamed via Forma’s Facebook page and many were recorded so that even those unable to be present could be fed by the experience. My take-aways and learnings:
It’s been a little over a week now that I’ve returned from almost two weeks in Austin, Texas where the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church was held. This triennial gathering is how The Episcopal Church determines its budget and way forward in living out the mission of the Church (to reconcile all to God in Christ). If you’re an Episcopalian, you know what I’m talking about (hopefully).
It was a convention in which we put our faith into action; there was lots of energy around social justice. And while in Austin, Episcopalians practiced what we preach. In any case, these are my top ten “take aways” from the fifth General Convention that I have attended. I’ll be posting more (with resources) about each in the coming week – check back here! Continue reading 79th General Convention Recap→