I rose early this morning in order to attend the Province VIII breakfast and installation of officers for 2009. We gathered from 7:00am to 8:30am for prayer, some refreshing food, and delightful conversation. Laura Smith, wife of our Diocesan Bishop was there along with Marilyn Hedges, myself, and about 50 other ECW members from this province (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, Nevada, California, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Taiwan).
Following the breakfast I wandered over to the Exhibition Hall and walked the exhibits. The room was filled with booths of all sorts: artwork from Haiti and Jerusalem, Chasubles and Albs from Whipple, Almy, and independant sources, Episcopal Relief and Development and Heifer International, Church Publishing and Leader Resources, and more. I walked the hall for about half an hour and then returned to my hotel room for some rest before my big afternoon as a Page in the House of Bishops.
I returned to the convention center at 1:15 in preparation for my shift as Page. Today the two houses, House of Bishops and House of Deputies, met for about an hour in joint session, to discuss the budget for 2009-2012. The budget presentation, filled with significant cuts of program and resources, was beautifully done, focusing on what makes us strong (our mission work) and not what wears us down – choosing to see this as an opportunity for resurrection instead of despair. Both Houses will consider the budget in legislation Thursday morning.
Following the budget presentation the House of Bishops convened for about 40 minutes in private session, which is the usual way they prepare for an open hearing. The Pages, media, and general public joined the House of Bishops at 4:40. The legislation under discussion today dealt with a resolution asking the Standing Committee on Liturgics, in relationship with the House of Bishops, to create liturgies and resources for the blessing of same-gendered relationships. (I’m not sure the resolution used the word Marriage, I think it was “relationship”). The House of Bishops discussed and amended, and voted down a few amendments, to the original resolution for over an hour. As Pages we were busy bringing bishops the official form for making amendments, transporting notes between House of Bishops and House of Deputies, as well as any other messages that needed to be delivered to an individual bishop. At one point there was a long discussion about “dispatching” the entire resolution, which I gathered to mean they would table the discussion, and perhaps address it in another form next convention. The intent all around was too begin the process of creating, for Bishops and clergy who reside in states that have legalized same gendered marriage, a liturgy to bless that marriage, with the hope of having some materials ready for presentation at the next General Convention in 2012.
As a Page I was awestruck by the degree of compassion, respect, and generosity exhibited in the House of Bishops as they undertook this very difficult task. I am deeply moved and hold in high regard all of the Bishops who have worked so hard these last two weeks. It was amazing to witness the proceedings around this topic and the overwhelming support given to it by more than 2/3 of the Bishops. And, although I was not a Page in the House of Deputies, I am sure they were working just as hard and with the same degree of graciousness, on whatever topic was before them.
The day ended with a prayer, offered by the Chaplain, and a chant led by a musician and sung by all, followed by 10 minutes of silent prayer. The Presiding Bishop, Katharine Schori closed the session with a simple, “Shalom, Go in peace.”
Regardless of what each of may think about the ultimate decisions made at convention I think we all should be honored to be lead by two fine houses, Bishops and Deputies, and the amazing, prayerful, Spirit-filled work they have done.
Today was one of those days when I really love the Episcopal Church.
Tomorrow: a more restful day? We’ll see….