Dear Cathedral Ohana:
As you know, I have been away in Asheville, North Carolina at an Episcopal revival called Awakening Soul. This is my third time attending this event, although I have had a four-year hiatus from it. I’d like to thank the wardens and office staff for holding down the fort while I was away. In addition to our regular Sunday worship offerings, we also held a funeral for Tom Van Culin and an Evensong to honor Queen Liliuokalani. I will be back in the office on Thursday morning and will begin to make preparations for the Wharton funeral on Saturday morning, as well as getting ready for our weekend worship offerings.
Awakening Soul was a phenomenal experience for me. It is an event where people from across United States gather for revival and renewal, this year looking at revival and renewal through the lens of love and justice. In addition to plenary sessions held by various speakers, we also had contemporary Christian music that was composed by many of the performers on stage. Many of the songs were ostinatos where we sang the same lines over and over again, allowing the words to be processed not so much in the head but in the heart. It was very stirring and moving. One of the lines that we sang was: Justice is the body of love, and love is the soul of justice. Singing those words over and over again was a prayer for me, and it has inspired me to live into the call to serve God by engaging in love through justice.
There were four speakers at the event: Larry Maze, former Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas, Heidi Kim from the Episcopal Church Center, Ed Bacon, author and former Rector of All Saints in Pasadena, and Catherine Meeks, Director of the Absalom Jones Center in Atlanta. The chaplain for the event was Brian Prior, Bishop of Minnesota. Heidi Kim and Brian Prior were at the Cathedral with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry in September for the EAM gathering.
There were several interesting takeaways from the speakers. Catherine Meeks pointed out that the church is supposed to be a container for liberation, but that it often imprisons our souls rather than liberating them. Larry Maze talked about living into our truth and how he came out as a gay man after retiring as Bishop of Arkansas. He also talked about the pain of looking at his white privilege in the midst of that transformation and how he continues to learn and grow as he endeavors to engage in racial reconciliation. Ed Bacon talked about the importance of striving for stillness in our lives of faith and prayer so that we can hear the voice of God strengthen us and guiding us in our lives of ministry. Heidi Kim talked about the demands that the church places on those engaged in ministry and how we must find balance between our vocations and our personal lives, feeling okay about taking time for ourselves and our families on a regular basis. She also cautioned us about nastiness, saying that there is nothing nastier than church nasty. In other words, we have to be careful about justifying nasty behavior because we are doing the work at the church. The main take away for me, however, was when Catherine Meeks pointed out that churches are very anxious in this day and age because we worry about our future. She says that the best way to deal with that is to focus on what we are doing well in the present. I feel that we do a lot well in the present here at the Cathedral and I am very proud of that as your priest.