Sunday worship at General Convention never fails to renew my joy at being a Christian in the Episcopal Church. Some highlights:
The long line of our bishops in procession, demonstrating the breadth and diversity of the church, as well as its ancient origin in the apostles.
Behind the cross, the first person in procession, ahead of all the bishops, is a lone mother carrying her child. No one can say that we are not a pro-family church.
The reading of 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 was assigned to a man with a strong stutter. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” His reading was met with a round of applause.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s sermon on the woman bleeding for twelve years, making parallel to a Mother church bleeding membership for twelve years. By reaching out in faith to touch the fringe of Jesus’ robe, his divine grace will make us rise and walk again.
Singing “I am the bread of life” with 1,000+ people, many of whom waved their arms in the air at the refrain: “I will raise them up, I will raise them up, I will raise them up on the last day.” This congregation is not God’s frozen-chosen!
Sunday morning hundreds of Episcopalians processed throughout the streets of Salt Lake City preaching and praying for an end to gun violence. We chanted a haunting rendition of Psalm 130 the whole way: “Out of the deep, O Lord / unto thee I cry. / Consider well the prayer of my longing soul.” The song blended with the chanting of Kyrie, eleison (Lord, have mercy).
Bishop Hayashi spoke his story of being shot in the abdomen by a criminal. Police officers, clergy and mothers gave moving testimony that I am still reflecting on.
The folks from NH wore matching Jonathan Daniels t-shirts, as he becomes a patron saint of gun violence victims. We were cursed at along the way once. People shielded their eyes from the sun with their hands, using a gesture that appeared to say, “Don’t shoot.”
Later this morning is the great Sunday Eucharist and then legislation in the afternoon. Provincial Caucuses this evening.
Yesterday was day 3 and it was a full one! I came back to my room after 9pm having not had dinner. So, I’m catching up on the blogging now. To answer a few questions about Salt Lake City quickly:
The hotel does not have a full bar in it, but the hotel restaurant does serve alcohol. A number of deputies are avoiding alcohol while they are here, wearing “No Thank You” buttons from Episcopal Recovery Ministries.
The Marriott chain is owned by a Mormon family. So, there is a Book of Mormon in the nightstand. The coffee maker is hidden from view in the closet, so it’s not evidently here by default. There is, however, a Starbucks on the ground level.
The entire city is built around the Temple. All major streets are numbered from their proximity and direction (N, S, E, W) from it. I haven’t totally cracked the code, but it’s a handy way to navigate, like the Streets and Avenues of Manhattan.
Yesterday, my Committee finished its business. We will only reconvene if a resolution is later referred to us by the House, but otherwise we are done. I helped draft a substitute resolution on inter-faith and ecumenical understanding that we are happy with. It falls short of mandated canonical change, but I think is a strong and helpful document.
The Committee did see a small amount of church power politics, which surprised me. One resolution (A070) asked that the Presiding Bishop and the PHOD jointly appoint members to inter-church and inter-faith dialogue groups. Currently only the PB does this. When discussed the bishops immediately objected, saying that this job belongs uniquely to the bishop who is the chief ecumenical officer in his or her diocese. Once the bishops objected to sharing power, the deputies dug in and fought back. For a committee that had worked so smoothly together, I was surprised. The end result: the PB still appoints but must consult with the PHOD.
We took a break for morning worship. The Eucharists here are incredible–worshiping with 1,000 people is a feeling like no other. The music is always very fine and I like the way that the PB leads worship. Also: they can serve communion to one thousand people in the amount of time it takes me to commune 75. It is a well-planned, highly-efficient operation.
Then we moved into the House of Deputies. Today was the first official day of business. As the House convenes we always have an open Bible present, as a sign of our dependence on the Word of God. It is open to a verse chosen by the President, this time Philippians 4:4-7.
We took votes to elect officers and approve the Rules of Order. Mostly procedural, some substance, but necessary to do.
Now that Committee 15 is on hiatus, I could go to other committees to listen and speak. So, I went to Committee 8 (Social Justice and United States Policy) to testify in support of New Hampshire’s resolution on abolishing the death penalty (D025). My testimony was simply to tell the story of repeal efforts in NH and that, while we haven’t won the day yet, we are confident it will come soon. So, this resolution represents methods that are working and should be taken to dioceses across the denomination.
Also at that hearing were a number of folks from the Official Youth Presence. Each of these teenagers had prepared testimony on this and the other resolutions the committee was hearing. They were great! Most of them were well-thought and more on-point than the adults. If they are the future of the church, then God is leaving us in good hands.
We had one more legislative session in the afternoon. Our table is in the middle of the room, so you can see how far we are from the podium. Just imagine that there are folks twice as far from us at the back!
After all the rules-stuff, we took our first official vote (A302). I’m pleased that the first official act of the House was to send a letter of condolence and solidarity to Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. The committees and dispatch groups worked hard to fast-track this so that the resolution could arrive in time to be read at the memorial service taking place on Friday.
Finally, I attended a hearing on Structure with Canon Kevin Nicholas. We arrived a little late, having met up for a deputation caucus to catch up with the other NH folks. We had to stand in the back since the room was packed.
When we arrived the committee was asking questions from the Presiding Bishop (barely pictured below). She was fielding questions mostly about clearing up lines of authority and responsibility of the Executive Council but also taking questions about who she is accountable to as PB and what processes are there to make formal complaint about her leadership. No softball questions here!
The open hearing then began. The Structure committee heard input on several topics, including:
reducing the size of Executive Council from 40 to about 20
reducing the size of General Convention from 880-ish to some other number
elimination of formal Provinces (groups of dioceses) in favor of looser cooperative networks
The speakers are diverse: bishops, seminary deans and lay folk who came on their own dime to speak. Their opinions are also just as diverse.
Lots to participate in and lots that can make a real difference in the church and its impact in the world. I’ll keep you posted about Friday’s happenings soon.
Last night was the first meeting of Committee 15 (Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations). There are 25 people on the committee, about five bishops, ten clergy and ten laypeople. Folks are from across the country and one serves an Episcopal congregation located in Germany. We made introductions and got right to business. Our first job was to review the list of resolutions that are sent to us. Each resolution gets a hearing and we’ll start that at 7pm tonight.
There are several resolutions and memorial letters encouraging us to create a system for training clergy and lay leaders in inter-faith knowledge. Too many church leaders speak, preach or teach without an adequate understanding of the other religions they are talking about. In Biblical terms, this is “bearing false witness.” So, why not require training on this, as we do on anti-racism and Safe Church (abuse awareness).
We will need to consolidate each of the resolutions into one, formally submit it, hold a hearing and send it on to the House for debate. I volunteered to help. The subcommittee meets at 7am!
As for today, the deputies are all here and meeting in the House. There’s about 875 of us all in all, so it’s a big House. Coincidentally the NH deputation is seated at the same table at the Texas deputation, so I’m with friends and family here. Each deputation’s table has a pole with their name on it and we’ve decorated ours with a stuffed moose, Courtney’s knitted vine and a “Black Lives Matter” sign, which many deputations have also put up.
We got opening remarks from Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori (PB) and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings (PHOD). The PB likened General Convention to NASA’s Mission Control, providing support to the heroic astronauts in space (parishioners). The PHOD pointed out that of the 875 deputies, 398 are first-timers. So, 46% of the House is completely fresh, an all-time high for us.
After the speeches, we had a long orientation session. The Convention is saturated with technology this time, from iPads to voting machines and RFID tags for everyone. When you rise to speak, you insert you card and the Chair sees your name and deputation instantly and can keep tabs on the correct order that people got up in. Hopefully, this will speed up deliberation by reducing confusion about the priority of motions and simply “who got there first.”
After the orientation we had a lunch break. I had volunteered to meet with some committee compatriots to go over that resolution on multi-faith knowledge. We drafted something up and will bring it to committee tonight so it can be “ripped to shreds,” as one of our veteran deputies put it. This is how the sausage gets made, folks.
As for now, the House is hearing from each of the candidates for the Presiding Bishop election to happen on Saturday. Later, a short break and then evening hearings and events. Then, even later, my face hits a pillow.
I’ve just arrived in Salt Lake City for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I am one of the four clergy deputies from New Hampshire. For the next 12 days we will worship and pray, meet and talk, vote and plan about God’s purpose for our denomination.
Salt Lake City is also the home of the Mormon Temple and it’s not far from our convention center. At the end of June, young Mormons come here at the conclusion of their mission time. Our airplane was full of Episcopal priests in collars and young men in white shirts, dark ties and name tags. Different faiths but the same hope to share God’s good news with others.
Coming down the escalator, the baggage claim was packed with families welcoming home their missionaries. Balloons, banners, cheering and crying were everywhere. I have a sense of “holy envy” that every church be able to value its young adults this much.
After settling in, I picked up my credentials to vote. For the first time, this General Convention will be near-paperless. I was issued an iPad with a “virtual binder” full of resolutions. I also got a “voting card” with an RFID chip on it. They’ll tell me how it all works tomorrow. There is also an app with worship bulletins, seating charts, schedules, maps and everything else you could want to navigate.
The Salt Palace convention center is enormous and takes time to walk around. So, I searched out the House of Deputies and found the New Hampshire seats. We are seated almost randomly around and this year we share a table with the diocese of Texas. Right now the room is quiet and cool but tomorrow it’ll be a hotbed of deputies.
I also hunted down the room for my Committee (#15: Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations). It’s a long, winding hike to get so I’ll be getting my exercise this week. In half an hour we have our first Committee meeting, mostly introductions and orientation. Then: dinner.
In 1653, construction began on Holy Trinity Chapel in Leicestershire, England. Sir Robert Shirley wanted to have a Church of England chapel built on his own estate there. What makes this church building so special is the period of history when it was built. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell had just begun his Protectorate. Under his leadership King Charles I and Archbishop William Laud were beheaded and many loyal to Charles or the Church of England fled for their lives in Scotland or Europe.
During this dangerous time, Anglican churches were demolished and turned to buildings for Puritan worship. However much we see our world changing, it’s hard to imagine living in a world where basic foundations are overturned, like the existence of a Supreme Court. Or to see the government literally tearing down churches of those who opposed its regime.
It was at this time that Sir Robert Shirley built an Anglican, Episcopalian, Church of England chapel, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, on his estate. Before it was completed, he was arrested for his crime and died in the Tower of London.
But over the chapel door is a plaque with this inscription:
“When all things sacred were throughout ye nation Either demollisht or profaned Sir Robert Shirley Barronet founded this Church whose singular praise it is to have done ye best things in ye worst times And hoped them in the most calamitous. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.”
Our Grace Episcopal Church has a building with a history with remembering, too. Our congregation worshiped in East Concord from 1883 to 1913—thirty years—without any building. We met either above what is now the Quality Cash Market, then the general store, or what is now the community center, then the fire station.
But on June 18, 1914, Bishop Edward Parker consecrated a church for us. It was a little building, about half as long as it is now. There was no parish hall yet, which was built in 1953. There was no office. Just a place, as the certificate in the hallway says, “for offering to [God’s] glorious Majesty the Sacrifices of Prayer, Praise and Thanksgiving.”
After the church was consecrated, less than one week later, a massive fire in downtown Manchester injured 19 firemen and caused $400,000 in damage. Before the end of the month, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and World War I was underway.
It must have seemed that the world, locally and globally, was coming completely undone. In the face of that, what did our forefathers and foremothers do? They built a church, a place “for offering to [God’s] glorious Majesty the Sacrifices of Prayer, Praise and Thanksgiving.” Instead of giving into fear and despair, they did “ye best things in ye worst times And hoped them in the most calamitous.”
Having a church building means a lot of things. It is an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace, a sacramental symbol of the presence of God in this place. It is an area set aside for listening to God and receiving his grace, like Moses removing his sandals on the holy ground before the burning bush.
But why do we need one? We can pray anywhere, listen to God anywhere and receive God’s grace anywhere. Why not just stay in the upper room of the Quality Cash market? Why shouldn’t Sir Robert Shirley just pray in a spare room in his Leicestershire manor?
One way we might look at is this: For him and for our East Concord ancestors, building a church and building up the church was an act of defiance. It was resistance (nonviolent but nevertheless resistance) to evil in the world.
For example, when we live in a culture of shrinking, failing and dying congregations, improving and growing our building is a bold act of hope in the way God is making disciples here and now.
For example, when stores in Steeplegate Mall pack up and leave when the going gets tough, keeping a church building is a defiant way to say, “We are sticking with Concord, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”
For example, when the gap between the rich and the poor grows staggeringly fast and seems impossible to fix, making more room for Take-a-Tote is an act of rebellion as we say, “I don’t care that the odds are against us, I’m going to try to help anyway.”
For example, when the terror of mass gun violence grips us with grief and fear, the church building remains obstinately a place of peace and faith in the goodness that God works in sinful, broken, vulnerable people.
This is why we own, maintain and even grow what seems so superficial, our church buildings, because we long to do “ye best things in ye worst times And [hope] them in the most calamitous. The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.”
“With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything.”
From this parable, we are reminded that by trade Jesus was a carpenter who spent his time with fisherman. That’s because this parable sounds unreal to any farmer or gardner. How many gardeners would love to be able to scatter seed and then not worry? No water, no weeds, no bugs, no animals, “the seed [just] sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”
But instead of giving us a planting almanac, Jesus’ parable teaches an important spiritual principle: understanding comes through patience. The grain takes time to ripen and grow, “first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” So also does understanding God’s purpose with our lives and with the world. Jesus only explains things in cryptic parables, saying only enough as to be understood. Only on the rare occasion, alone with the disciples, did Jesus explain everything clearly.
Our impatience demands results and understanding immediately. We respond to breaking news and to-the-moment weather reports. Yet, like planting, so little of what matters in life can be understood and appreciated in a rush.
At our home in Pembroke, we keep chickens and collect their eggs. We can get about a dozen eggs in a week, but of course not all at once. The chickens lay when they are ready. Of course we could just pick up a dozen eggs at the supermarket from a factory farm.
But if you’ve ever had a farm fresh egg, still warm from the roosting box, you know the difference between that and the tasteless supermarket egg. It’s the same difference in flavor between a pale, hot-housed tomato and a bright, juicy tomato from your own garden.
Jesus’ parable points us toward that old adage that “life can only be lived forward and can only be understood in reverse.” Life moves forward at an unforgiving speed and to see the world “from a worldly point of view” leaves us breathlessly rushed and without deeper understanding of our lives.
Rather for us who are in Christ, we heed his parable that understanding our lives, our world and our God come only with age and experience, with patience and reflection, and with meditation and prayer. Amen.
One afternoon I reached for a cup of coffee on my desk. The cup had been there all day, tepid at room temperature. I don’t know why I expected it to still be hot. As the coffee touched my lips, my head jerked back and my hand nearly threw the cup and I nearly spit the lukewarm coffee out.
Psychologists distinguish between “fast” and “slow” thinking. Fast thinking is like that, intuitive and reactionary. While it makes us look decisive, fast judgments are often prejudiced and poorly thought-out.
To overcome snap decisions in favor of slow thinking and long-term planning, we must have a spiritual ballast of prayer, meditation and silence.
Let us pray.
I know not what this day will bring, O Lord, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Amen. (Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, p. 461)
Blinking a single light is a simple project and the easiest way to start physical computing with the Raspberry Pi. There are three basic steps to get the blinking light to work.
You will need a single LED light, a breadboard and two pieces of jumper wire. Connect one wire to the Raspberry Pi’s ground pin. Choose another pin to be the controlling pin. My program below uses pin 25. Finally, connect the LED light with the long wire in the same row as the pin’s wire. The short wire on the LED should line up with the wire for the ground pin.
You should end up with a circuit that looks like this:
See the annotated program below. The program is a complete Python program, so you can copy and paste it into a file on your Raspberry Pi.
To use the GPIO library and pins, you have to run this program with super-user privileges. So, type the command sudo python blinker.py into the shell. It runs in an infinite loop, so you’ll have to press Control-C to stop it.
Once you have it working, experiment with different values for pause. Try adding a pause2 variable so that there are two different pauses, one for the light being on and one for it being off.
# blinker.py - blink a light-emitting diode on and off
# Add the RPi.GPIO library to interface with hardware pins.
# Add the time library to control the pauses.
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
# The pause variable makes the light blink on for one second and off for one second.
# Change this value for a faster or slower blink.
pause = 1
# The pin variable tells the Pi which pin the light is connected to.
# Change this value to reflect how you have wired the LED to the Pi.
pin = 25
# Set up the GPIO system to use our chosen pin as an Output
# The line "while True:" make an infinite loop.
# Inside the loop, we turn the light on, pause for one second.
# Then, turn the light off and pause for another second.