Every three years The Episcopal Church gathers in what is known as General Convention to consider a wide range of important matters facing the Church ranging from liturgical revision to social justice initiatives, budgetary matters to theological discussions, and so much more. Some call it a grand family reunion that brings representatives (lay, clergy, and bishops) from all the 110 dioceses of The Episcopal Church together for ten days (more like two weeks). Officially, General Convention is the governing body of The Episcopal Church; it is a bicameral legislature that includes the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, composed of deputies and bishops from each diocese. In July 2018, the 79th General Convention will be held in Austin, Texas hosted by the Diocese of Texas.
Leading up to this triennial meeting, various committees, commissions, agencies, boards, and task forces created by the 78th General Convention meet to study and propose legislation to be discussed and voted upon in Austin. While most Episcopalians are oblivious to the machinations of General Convention, the decisions that are made at this gathering has an impact on what can (and should) be happening in local congregations as each of us are members of this church body. For example, decisions that effect every church goers that was approved at previous conventions include: the use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the election of our current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the ordination of women, the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in all aspects of church life, and full-communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). Continue reading Looking Toward General Convention→
I have just returned from the 19th Annual Forma Conference in Philadelphia, and it occurs to me that our Church can learn much from how this organization for Christian Formation leaders in The Episcopal Church has been behaving lately.
We’re always hearing about the decline in church membership, the “graying” of those in the pews, and younger generations who are choosing to stay away – preferring to be “spiritual” rather than “religious.” These past few days in Philadelphia gave me time to reflect on what was different (and exciting) as I listened, watched, and rejoiced in what was going on all around me.
First, a little history. Most of my adult vocation has been in Christian education on a parish, diocesan, or church-wide level. I’ve seen decline in church attendance, alongside the budget cuts of formation positions (and education funding) on all church levels. I’ve been a Forma member almost since its inception (which began in 1997 as NAECED – the National Association of Episcopal Christian Education Directors), joining when I was a part-time Church School Coordinator.
I’ve been to at least 15 NAECED/Forma conferences, with my first one in New Orleans in 2002. There were about 40 people present and all our sessions were together in a small hotel conference room. We were all women (with maybe two men), mostly lay folk, and most involved in children’s ministries. And we were aging – just like the church in general. We did not represent the diversity that exists in our communities. As years (and annual conferences) went by I was beginning to wonder if there was a future generation to follow in my footsteps, or if the vocation of Christian education was to go the way of the dodo bird (and maybe organized religion). Continue reading How The Episcopal Church Can Learn from Forma→
I’m a tea drinker. In bag form or loose, I enjoy a steaming cup of camomile, rooibos, white, or regular Lipton. I’ll reuse the leaves, and occasionally reuse a tea bag for another cup or pot. But then the bag or soaked tea leaves end up in the trash or compost. Little did I know they could serve another purpose – empowering women half way across the globe.
On our summer trip to South Africa, we had a day to explore Cape Town in all its beauty – Table Mountain (under the table-cloth), Simon’s Town, Haut Bay, and the beautiful M6 (Victoria Road) along the coast (which reminded us of Big Sur). Our guide knew we liked to see off the beaten path, local spots, so he brought us to Original T Bag Designs. Continue reading Empowering Women with Tea Bags→
I love looking at people’s feet – in particular, their shoes. I suppose this has me looking down more than looking up, which is problematic in itself. I probably miss some interesting faces and exchanges as an observer of people. I’ve discovered that airport sitting as well as hotel lobbies and train platforms offer a variety of perspectives. I believe shoes tell a lot about who we are, who we yearn to be, or how we try to fit in and relay a persona.
The past few days I’ve been in Minneapolis attending Why Christian?, a conference organized by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans. It was a conference featuring some of the most promising voices of women in the Church in the United States. Some of the names were familiar to me, others I had never heard of. I didn’t know what to expect, except that the women on the marquis were at the leading edge of what the Church could and should be all about. The publicity leading up to this event hinted at what a watershed moment this might be. The venue had to be changed when 1,000 people registered months ago, causing the planners to have to turn away folks. While not a conference “about” and “for” women, the majority of people who filled the pews, aisles, and balcony to SRO were women.
Which brings me back to shoes. I stayed at the Hyatt, about half a mile from St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral where the event was held. It would seem that while Why Christian? was going on, another conference featuring women (as speakers and participants) was happening at the Hyatt. Waiting in line at Starbucks at 7:30 a.m. found me in a queue of strappy stilettos, well-manicured fingers, and coiffed hair. But it was the shoes that captured my gaze – clicking across the slate lobby floor, gracefully climbing the steps to the conference room areas, waiting for a double-espresso latte or tall macchiato. Long legs and short legs, each moved with confidence, having learned that balancing act, or at least exhibiting the power of control in walking tall perched on 6″ heels. I was wearing my black Aerosole flats. Continue reading Voices and Shoes→
Hello darkness, my old friendI’ve come to talk with you againBecause a vision softly creepingLeft its seeds while I was sleepingAnd the vision that was planted in my brainStill remainsWithin the sound of silence
“Sounds of Silence” – Simon & Garfunkel
I love August nights. The sounds of peepers when the temps are right – tree frogs, crickets and all the night creatures serenading me to sleep. I’ve been fortunate in that all the homes (excluding first apartment) have been set on a +/-acre of land that was at least partially wooded. Where we live now we’re surrounded by woods; it’s common to hear owls and coyotes calling in the darkness.
Quiet, comfortable silence that some might find too noisy. And as of last week, I’ve come to recognize the others noises that are not so pleasant. My ears have been sensitized to the quiet, to the stillness, to the sound of the air and the breath of creation.
We arrived in Africa during a full moon, so we could still see our way along the pathways to our ‘tent’ and could catch the outlines of the multitude of elephants that strolled back and forth from the river in the early evening and early dawn. Sleep was often awakened to the sound of hrrmpphing . . . hippos rising out of the cool water of the river to feed on the grasses on the shore and inland, whether they were green or dry. The trumpeting of elephants communicating and defending their young sounded within reach, although were probably hundreds of meters away. The cry of a leopard in the distance.
The nights became darker. As the moon waned, the sky opened up. Coming back late evening from a game drive in the land rover gave our guide pause to stop the engine, turn off the headlights and be still. Looking up, the cosmos bloomed in a massive array of constellations and planets. The Southern Cross . . . follow the two pointers. The Milky Way. A shooting star. Another. And another.
Each morning awakened before the dawn cracked open to the sounds of vervet monkeys chattering in the trees and birds urging the sun to rise. A new day, a new adventure. A new experience of life that occurs everyday that was unbeknownst to me before.
In the heart of the Delta we are treated to mokoros. Guided by our boatsmen, they silently glide through the glass waters amidst reeds, grasses, palms and papyrus, with a steady hand and strong arm of the pole. True silence. During the day, even the hippos are hidden away in the tall reeds, crocs sunning themselves on the floating debris only to slide into the shallows as we approach. Watching a multitude of African fish eagles watching us, herons and cranes mirrored in their search for fish, a Pel’s Fishing Owl discovered in the trees. It is quiet.
The nights are again silent. The hippo grunts and elephants walking through mud and water are part of the sounds of calmness. The tree frogs create a rhythm of their own, different varieties, each with their own melody. A lion’s roar, followed by the bark of a hyena in the distance. It is quiet. Encased in a mosquito-netted bed, you can hear the earth breathe.
Flash forward. Gladly back to the comfort of my own bed, easily flowing hot water and awaiting for the August peepers to lull me back to sleep. It is not to be. The silence is no longer present. The hum of the refrigerator, the glow from the clock radio, the water softener going through its cycle in the wee hours of the morning. The cars . . . loudly whispering away on the Merritt Parkway on the other side of the woods. White noise.
Silence is a curious thing. You think you know what it is until you don’t have it anymore.
But I still have the peepers for another month, and the remembrance of the whispered sounds of silence.
Photos taken by John Pearson, Sharon Pearson, Becca Hays and Chris Pearson (July 30 – August 10, 2012).