Well, we certainly took quite a summer hiatus from writing here, didn’t we? After a conversation with a new fellow-clergy-spouse friend in the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe at our most recent Convention, I’m at least inspired enough to re-commit myself to the recording of daily life and thoughts here on our blog.
I also wrote this review for our St. Paul’s Weekly E-pistle today, so that’s something!
Church Is What We Make It
It is such a joy to report back to you from the Annual Convention of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. This past weekend, we gathered at the ecumenical center of Château de Bossey just outside of Geneva, Switzerland to conduct the yearly business meeting of the Convocation. We were inspired by the practice of telling stories of faith and by being in the same room with sisters and brothers who are now spread across a nearly 4.000 kilometer stretch of uniquely European territory, from our Cathedral in Paris to our newest mission partner in Tbilisi, Georgia.
We shared the table. Whether at early morning coffees, working lunches, or wildly entertaining dinners, we kept many a feast. In our dinners and in all our individual conversations, we celebrated servants of God, clergy and lay alike, who have given their devoted efforts to make this Church a beautiful and welcoming place for the Holy Spirit to work among us. It never hurts to have a pile of Swiss chocolate in front of you at work, either!
In and out of sessions, we debated and discussed and discerned how the vision of our Bishop Mark will lead us into a deeper understanding of God’s call. As we respond to his first address and charge to the Convocation this year, I believe we will come right to the edges of what we thought possible in ministry.
We were spellbound by the words of The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, the Presiding Bishop’s Canon to Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation, and Creation Care. We have discovered, with her wise counsel, that we are truly a European vine of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. In the months ahead, you will undoubtedly hear more often about the Way of Love and the core practices of a loving, liberating, life-giving faith in Jesus. These practices may be familiar to those of you who explored them with us at St. Paul’s during this past year’s season of Lent, and we strive to practice them together still!
Friends embraced, new folks introduced, and everyone attempted to speak in as many languages as possible, including the silence of presence and attention, and the body language of dancing with joyful, childlike trust!
The Partner Program, so lovingly developed by our Emmanuel Church hosts, also made it a incredibly enriched experience: hikes through the harvested vineyards along the Huguenot Trail with local parishioners and history tours on the cobblestone streets of Geneva. I met with the other partners and clergy spouses to hear all that’s happening from across the Convocation. Our time together supported the main goal for these action-packed days: to strengthen these bonds of affection, to share our wisdom and insight, and to listen for what God is already doing right here, now.
As someone sent to the meeting on behalf of St. Paul’s, I want to lift up a mirror to our work together at St. Paul’s and offer a glimpse of how I saw us fit into this larger project of being the Episcopal Church as it lives in Europe.
I am still rather new here, and as someone who left behind what was once comfortable and safe, I am always looking to translate my past experiences of building businesses and communities to benefit the work of making St. Paul’s a spiritual home for all. I am a handy-woman who prefers a free afternoon spent at the ferramenta over the gioielleria, so please forgive me for lifting from Bishop Mark’s eloquent sermon just this brief “nuts and bolts” message:
“…we are a do-it-yourself church in a culture where there is a kind of expectation that the church is something provided for you. Nothing about the Episcopal Church in Europe is provided for us by anyone other than ourselves.”
Yep. If you look around at St. Paul’s, you will see our fai-da-te spirit at work everywhere. I now live among you and in this building, and so you have given me the grace to see it happen every single day.
This Church is what we make it.
For example… Larry makes sure our Facebook page is colorfully and continually updated for the world to see, and Vincenzo often works in the parish kitchen on Tuesdays to get Wednesday’s soup started. Mona, Merritt, Nancy, and Bob sacrificed personal time to meet in the middle of a hectic week to respond thoughtfully to everything from the quarterly budget report to broken internet connections. Fr. Austin climbed on the tables to adjust our projector before that Vestry meeting, and both Marta and Fr. Francisco take special care that our linens are fitting and ready for each Sunday’s service. This is just a tiny slice of what I’ve seen in the past week!
So many here at St. Paul’s often do what they are not “supposed to do”, because we all believe that we are supposed to do what we can.
What I heard at Convention is that everyone who believes in this way of being the beloved community of the Church is with us! We do the little things we can do to provide a way for others to be here, too.
This is difficult work to do. It is difficult work to sustain, especially as our individual seasons of work and obligation sometimes overwhelm us. But I bring you this news: we are sharing in the larger project of being St. Paul’s within the gathering of the Convocation within the larger Episcopal Church within the larger Body of Christ. Belonging to this way means each of us are able to put our small daily acts of devotion–our prayers and our actions alike–into the global perspective. We are making the kind of Kingdom that is already here and also still to come. We are not alone in making this work, and we have not finished it yet.
St. Paul’s people make this Church a place known to support the poor, feed the hungry, wipe the tears of the grieving, and respond to the temporary evils of the world with the everlasting love of God. As a part of the larger whole, we have been supported, fed, comforted, and loved at every turn. Together, we affirm that God’s abundant grace is at work in us to bridge our divides, bind our wounds, and give us life right here. We give generously of time and talent and treasure to make this happen, with gratefulness and trust that all we have ever needed, the Lord did provide!
Our Convention has ended; our service continues. Thanks be to God!