Wednesday, July 08, 2009

It's Great, but It's Not Exactly the Same

One of the best things about General Convention is worship. The daily Eucharists are thrilling. They reflect the diversity of the Episcopal Church. It’s initially a bit jarring, certainly, to go from a psalm in English to the Gospel read in Spanish. After that first moment, though, it’s intensely satisfying. We are a diverse Church, and yet we can worship together without losing anyone’s integrity.

The music is just as diverse. We will hear rhythms that few of us hear regularly. We will be exposed to texts and tongues that few of us would hear at all otherwise. I collect the worship booklets to take home and share with parish clergy, hoping it will inspire them to some experimentation – some modest, well considered experimentation – in worship.

One difference between the Eucharists this year and those in 2006 has been the absence of movement after the sermon. In 2006 each day once the sermon was over a noticeable group of folks would rise and work their way out of the worship space. They were, by and large, on their way to an alternative daily Eucharist offered by some who were dissatisfied with the direction they saw General Convention taking.

My reaction to their absence this year is mixed. On the one hand, I’m saddened. They aren’t leaving this year because they aren’t here in the first place. Many have found their ways to other ecclesial bodies outside the Episcopal Church and arguably unrecognized by the Anglican Communion. They have despaired of feeling a place within the Episcopal Church. They have despaired, in many cases, of us entirely.

At the same time, I have to admit that it’s a joy to be worshipping together as one without such public demonstrations of separateness. I could not help then but see it as a distraction. I am happy not to have the distraction now.

That said, I will have to reflect a little sadness. These actions were perhaps a distraction, but the people were not. They were members of the Episcopal Church, however dissatisfied; and they continue to be members of the Body of Christ. I don’t expect I will see it; but perhaps in a generation those after me will see some reconciliation. I still think things will be more complete when once again they feel they can worship with us.

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