Karin Elsen recently attended national Episcopal Church meetings and the General Convention in Austin, TX. Here are her thoughts:
I attended as a United Thank Offering (UTO) representative and at the meeting of Episcopal Church Women (ECW). It was my first time there and I am profoundly grateful.
There is much activity: bishops and elected deputies gather for the purpose of church governance. Affiliated groups hold their own meetings. The church youth are officially present. Add to this mix, vendors, seminaries, special interest groups (did you know of the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf and their work?) and foundations. There are attendees from worldwide and religious orders, as well as invited ecumenical guests. It is a sight to be seen!
My own time spent is best described as being engaged in:
Education and Formation: I attended UTO workshops on The Jesus Movement, Abundance Stewardship and Best Financial Practices, Asset-Based Community Development and the new UTO smart-phone app. I learned more about the spiritual practice of gratitude.
Worship: There were plenty of opportunities for intentional prayer, such as daily Morning Prayer. In the evenings and on Sunday morning, a Eucharist was celebrated, and although we were in a cavernous hall with 3,000 other people, the service seemed intimate through connections with fellow worshippers, the traditional, gospel and jazz music, and liturgy.
I had amazing experiences at worship – twice as a Chalice server and once as a liturgical participant. The UTO representatives (104 of us) processed with the bishops to offer our diocese’s three-year pledge card. One by one, we stepped up to a large raised altar, placed our card in a beautiful Navajo basket and were received by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President, The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings. It was humbling.
On Saturday, the Diocese of Texas hosted a special old-fashioned “Revival” Service and barbeque. We enjoyed the very charming and talented Spanish-language interpreter, Dinorah Padro, who kept up with the very animated “country preacher”!
Witness and Service: Witness was an important undertaking. I attended prayer gatherings sponsored by Bishops and Episcopalians Against Gun Violence. A public witness was held in a park highlighting the family members of Carmen Schentrup, a high-schooler who was killed in Parkland, Florida. Her father and mother gave moving attestations of their faith in times of unimaginable tragedy and loss.
Many Episcopalians feel the duty to give something back to the place they’ve called home for several days. To this end, ECW raised funds for a local Tiny House Village transitional housing and made summer survival kits for Austin shelters.
I heard people talk about how they were looking for Jesus at General Convention – I found Jesus amidst a rich church that is both traditional and progressive, reverent and accessible, structured but seeking to be a Movement, and yet, still one body.