WEMO Youth at General Convention

Twenty-two youth and adults traveled to Austin, Texas when the diocesan youth attended this year’s General Convention of The Episcopal Church.

Hayley Cobb Five-minute read.   Resources
After lunch on Tuesday, the youth had a tour of the Convention Media Hub, on their travels they met Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Image: Chris Sikkema

The Diocese of West Missouri Youth Program was able to take 22 youth and adults to the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas at the beginning of July. It was a week full of learning and growth for everyone involved. Through legislative sessions, meetings with passionate Episcopalians, and powerful worship services, our youth got to experience the loving sense of community in our church.

Our group stopped in Denison, Texas on the drive down and stayed at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church for the night. We got to learn about all of the ministries St. Luke’s provides for their community as well as help serve dinner to people from the community. On our way into Austin, we went to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center to attend the prayer service Mthr. Megan Castellan and many others organized. Getting to gather together to witness in solidarity with the women at the center was a powerful, once in a lifetime experience for both our youth and adults.

The diocesan youth arrived today and joined us for Prayers for Justice at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. Image: Gary Allman

Monday was our first full day at Convention. We started the day hearing from Walker Adams, former WEMO youth and intern, about General Convention as well as what he does at Sewanee. We also got to sit down with Gay Clark-Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, for a brief minute and ask her a few questions before heading over to sit in on our first legislative session. Each day, once we arrived at the convention center, the youth had the option of getting to go sit in The House of Deputies during their sessions or explore the Exhibit Hall and talk to many different exhibitors about their booths. When in open session, some of us would go to the House of Bishops and listen to their discussion as well! In between legislative sessions, joint sessions, and talking to exhibitors, the WEMO Youth got to meet with lots of people involved in various parts of the Episcopal church.

Monday afternoon we got to meet with Bill Campbell, Executive Director of Forma, and talk with him about Forma’s presence at General Convention and what all they do as an organization. That evening we had the chance to tour Seminary of the Southwest with Joe Pierjok, student at Southwest from Church of the Redeemer in Kansas City.

WEMO Youth in the convention TV studio with Jeremy Tackett and Chris Sikkema. Supplied Image

Some other highlights from the week include touring the media hub TV Studio built for General Convention inside the convention center, running into Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, hearing from Shannon Kelly, Officer for Young Adult & Campus Ministries, and some of us helping to serve communion at the convention’s closing Eucharist. We had lunch with our deputation and used the opportunity to ask them questions about their experience. We also attended a youth gathering one night to meet with other youth at General Convention.

In no particular order. WEMO Youth, deputies, alternates, volunteers, Donna Field, Bishop Marty, and WEMO Jesus at the 79th Convention of The Episcopal Church. Image: Gary Allman
Amanda (left) and Rosie demonstrate a diverse taste in hats. Image: Gary Allman

It was a week full of new experiences for some of the WEMO Youth and while we were busy we learned a lot. We learned how to love everyone regardless of our differences through the adoption of the Diocese of Cuba back into The Episcopal Church. The business of the church might not always be glamorous, but it is important nonetheless. Having been immersed in General Convention for a week, the youth of this diocese experienced the Episcopal Church in new, fascinating ways and enjoyed it all.

Hayley Cobb is an intern with the diocesan youth ministry.

A Bishop Promotes a Renewed Jesus Movement

An interview with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Bill Tammeus five-minute read.   Resources


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is Interviewed by Bill Tammeus
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is Interviewed by Bill Tammeus at the Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri at Kansas City Live! Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

When Jesus of Nazareth began his brief (one to three years) ministry, he did not, while on Earth, start a new religion. What he started was a movement to reform certain practices and focuses of Judaism, his religion.

Which is why religion scholars — the best ones, anyway — don’t refer to Jesus’ 12 apostles as Christians. And they say it’s anachronistic to speak of Christianity as a separate religion from Judaism until decades after Jesus’ time. The term they most often use to refer to people attracted to the life and message of Jesus in the early years is the Jesus Movement.

Michael B. Curry , presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, thinks it’s time for a renewed Jesus Movement, one that draws its focus and energy from the teachings of Jesus and that de-emphasizes the institutional nature of the church.

Curry was in Kansas City (and Springfield, Missouri) this past weekend for an event called “Awakening the Spirit.” I had a chance to talk with him at the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City before he addressed the crowd there.

“… whether it’s the church or any organization or institution, the further it gets away from its reason for being, the weaker it becomes. And the closer it gets to its reason for being, the stronger it will be.” —
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

“I really believe,” he told me, “that whether it’s the church or any organization or institution, the further it gets away from its reason for being, the weaker it becomes. And the closer it gets to its reason for being, the stronger it will be. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been using the language of the church being a Jesus movement. That’s where the origins are. Jesus began a movement and that movement gathered around him and changed lives.”

For the institutional church, he said, it means “reclaiming who you are. The closer we are to our deepest roots as followers of Jesus of Nazareth I think the more effective we will be in engaging the culture and being a witness in our time.”

I asked him how a church can appeal to people rooted in our 21st Century scientific culture and worldview who struggle to make sense of stories from the gospels about the virgin birth, resurrection, a man who can walk on water and calm stormy seas with a word.

Curry said the thing to do is to focus not on those things but on the loving spirit of Jesus and how we might acquire that same kind of spirit: “Then the kind of life that Jesus lived becomes a possibility for me now.” Rather than getting stuck in arguments about whether Jesus really drove demons out of people or raised Lazarus from the dead, he said, people should try to live in ways that mirror the spirit of Jesus. “That’s a game changer,” he said.

Christianity is really quite simple, he said: “Love God, love thy neighbor. That’s the whole kit and caboodle.”

Curry said he’s “finding a receptivity” to his idea of describing his denomination as “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement. It’s reclaiming who we are in the first place. It’s not actually anything new. It’s going down to our deep roots … This is a cause, a cause that actually changed lives and changed the world for good.”

The Episcopal Church, like such Mainline Protestant churches as the Methodists, Lutherans and Presbyterians, has seen its membership numbers decline in recent years for a number of reasons, including people who left the church when it began ordaining otherwise-qualified gays and lesbians. That’s what is bringing the United Methodist Church to the edge of schism today, as I wrote about recently here. But the core issue is not about sexuality but about how to interpret the Bible.

So Curry is right to try to return to the center of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ himself. Whether the Episcopal Church as an institution can deliver that message in an effective way — or whether some new forms of messenger are needed — isn’t yet clear. Often across history the institutional church universal (not just the Episcopalians) has been as much a hindrance to the message as a help.

Maybe the Jesus movement Curry is promoting can help to change that.

Bill Tammeus writes about religion and ethics and is a former Faith columnist for The Kansas City Star.

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The Presiding Bishop Visits the Youth of the Diocese

Gary Allman Two-minute read.   Resources


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry with Bishop Marty and the youth of the dioceses of West Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa at St Paul’s Episcopal Church Kansas City. Image credit: Gary Allman

Before attending the ‘Awakening the Spirit’ events, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry spent time at St Paul’s Episcopal Church Kansas City with the youth of the diocese. They were joined by youth from the Dioceses of Kansas and Iowa.

The Presiding Bishop took part in two question and answer sessions Friday evening, and returned Saturday morning to see the youth assisting at the St. Paul’s food pantry.

Gary Allman is Director of Communications with The Diocese of West Missouri.

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Awakening the Spirit – Kansas City

Gary Allman Two-minute read (Unless you watch the video).    Resources


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Image credit: Gary Zumwalt

On Saturday May 6, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined the Diocese of West Missouri in the first half of the Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri held at Kansas City Live! This Awakening is the second of five planned evangelism events to be held during 2017.

Before arriving at Kansas City Live, the Presiding Bishop spent time with the youth of the diocese, the Diocese of Kansas, and the Diocese of Iowa at St Paul’s Episcopal Church Kansas City.

Between 800 and 1000 people attended the event, along with passing foot traffic for the nearby Garth Brooks concert.

Photographs by:

Gary Allman
Mary Ann Teschan
Gary Zumwalt

Video


(The event starts at around 7:09)

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

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Awakening the Spirit – Springfield

Gary Allman Two-minute read (Unless you watch the video).    Resources


Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preaching at Hammons Field, Springfield. Sunday May 7, 2017. Image credit: Gary Allman

Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri – on Sunday May 7, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined the Diocese of West Missouri at Hammons Field Springfield in the second half of the second of five planned evangelism events to be held during 2017.

The previous day the Presiding Bishop led the Awakening at Kansas City Live!

The Awakening at Springfield was attended by 600- 700 people who braved the bright sunshine and rising temperatures to watch the Presiding Bishop preach about The Jesus Movement.

Unfortunately due to Internet connectivity issue at Hammons field we were only able to record the Presiding Bishop’s address on video.

Video

Gary Allman is Communications Director with The Diocese of West Missouri.

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“Don’t be afraid to be people of love,” Presiding Bishop Tells Pittsburgh Revival

Three-day event kicked off the Episcopal Church’s plan to claim new life and change the world.

The Rev. Mary Frances-Schjonberg 10 minute read.   Resources

The old church tradition of the revival received new life in the Diocese of Pittsburgh Feb. 3-5 with a distinctly Episcopal feel. The emphasis was on both sparking individuals’ faith lives and a commitment to show the love of Jesus beyond the four walls of their churches. Anchoring Episcopal revivals in the needs of the world was a constant theme of the weekend.

“Episcopal Church, we need you to follow Jesus. We need you to be the countercultural people of God who would love one another, who would care when others could care less, who would give, not take,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said during his Feb. 5 sermon at Calvary Episcopal Church in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

For those who think the words Episcopal and revival don’t go together, the size of the crowds, the depth of their emotion and Curry’s insistence begged to differ.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry makes the rounds in the undercroft of Church of the Holy Cross during a Feb. 4 breakfast meeting with youth of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Image credit: The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg /ENS

His prayer for this and subsequent revivals, he said during one of his four sermons, is that they will be the beginning of “a way of new life for us as this wonderful Episcopal Church, bearing witness to the love of God in Jesus in this culture and in this particular time in our national history.”

Curry’s Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism in Southwestern Pennsylvania is the first of six revivals being planned with diocesan teams in different cities around the country and the world this year and in 2018.

“I want to suggest this morning that we need a revival inside the church and out – not just in the Episcopal Church. For there is much that seeks to articulate itself as Christianity that doesn’t look anything like Jesus,” Curry said in his Feb. 4 sermon during an Absalom Jones Day Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross. “And if it doesn’t walk and talk and look and smell like Jesus, it’s not Christian … and if it’s going to look like Jesus, it’s got to look like love.”

Curry said the revival of the church, centered in God’s love, is not about a church rejuvenated for its own sake. The church’s revival must spill God’s love out into the world “until justice rolls down like a mighty stream,” he said, echoing Micah. To do that, a revival must channel the emotions of the moment toward something bigger and lasting, Curry said during a news conference. “It is about claiming new and authentic and genuine life. That’s true for our nation, true for our world. We must find better ways to live together, to care for each other, to care for our society and to care for our global communities,” he said.

“We who are followers of Jesus believe that the way of love and the way of Jesus is the key to doing that. But, we join hands with people of other faiths and people of goodwill – anyone who wants to help us end what so often is a nightmare of poverty and injustice and bigotry and wrong and violence, and realize God’s dream of true harmony and peace and justice for everybody.”

The six revivals will vary in design, according to a recent press release, but most will be multi-day events that feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, speakers, invitations to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and intentional outreach with people who aren’t active in a faith community.

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, Reconciliation and Creation, is organizing those efforts, along with a team including Consulting Evangelist for Revivals Carrie Headington and Evangelism Associate Emily Gallagher. The planning for each begins with asking diocesan members what the good news of Jesus looks like in their communities. Pittsburgh Episcopalians discerned that the good news would help them cross the divides of their area, build relationships with neighbors of different traditions and start reconciling with each other, Spellers said during the news conference. Thus, that was the theme of the Pittsburgh gathering.

She and others will return to the dioceses after the revivals to work with Episcopalians to cultivate a group of leaders who have new abilities, new relationships and a new common purpose to further enact Jesus’ love in their communities.

“Hopefully, Pittsburgh – not just the diocese but the city and surrounding communities – will look different. And they’ll feel like there was a church that showed up, not only to talk about good news but to be good news,” she said, describing the hoped-for outcome.  Episcopalians will understand that they have grown into being new leaders of the Jesus Movement, she added.

Curry’s call for reconciliation and healing first rang out Feb. 3 during the opening event, an ecumenical service of repentance and reconciliation at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Hicks Chapel.

“I am more and more convinced that Jesus came among us to show us how to become more than simply the human race,” Curry said. “He came to show us how to become the human family of God. And, my brothers and my sisters, in that is our hope and in that is our calling.”

God is calling Christians to a deep and radical sense of repentance, Curry said. The world needs such a manifestation of Christianity, he contended, because it will lead to a desperately needed reconciliation among a litany of ethnic groups and even among “red folk and blue folk,” referring to the nation’s political divisions. Finding ways for Republicans and Democrats to discover common ground echoed through Curry’s sermons.

The congregation greeted Curry’s words at the seminary with murmurings of assent, shouts of agreement and, soon, drum rolls and keyboard riffs from the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church choir, whose members also sang during the service. That audience participation was hallmark of all four of Curry’s sermons during the weekend and it included the Presiding Bishop leading every congregation in song.

Curry sounded a theme that would echo throughout the weekend: Christians must be people of compassion, people of goodwill, people who dare to live the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’ words in the Matthew 25:31-46. For instance, he said, people setting social policy or enacting legislation ought to measure it by the core Christian value of “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Twelve leaders and senior pastors from local Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and African-American churches gathered with elected and civic leaders and members of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for the service that many called a historic commitment to ecumenical conversation. The revival began with a revival of the clergy’s commitment to their ministry. Pittsburgh’s Roman Catholic Bishop, David Zubik, began a 10-part confession based on the Church of Scotland’s Ministerial Challenge of 1671, lamenting clergy’s attention to the business and accolades of the world. “We have been unfaithful to our own souls, and to our sisters and brothers; unfaithful in the pulpit, in fellowship, in discipline, in the Church,” Zubik said.

Curry met the next morning with some of the youth of the diocese at Holy Cross in the struggling Homewood West neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Telling them that they were growing up in a time of complex change, he said technological progress is important but “progress as a way of love, progress in living, progress in learning how to live together in all of our differences and varieties may be the ultimate progress that will make the difference for us all.”

After the breakfast meeting, Curry went upstairs for a rousing Absalom Jones Day Eucharist in the packed nave. During his sermon, the Presiding Bishop continued his call for Christians to act out of the selfless love exemplified by Jesus on the cross rather than “unenlightened self-interest.”

Saying that the “way of love can save us all,” Curry asked the congregation to imagine how legislatures, corporate boardrooms, schools and health care in America would be different if they were approached “not by what I can get out of it but how it serves the common good.”
“We are talking about a revolution of values,” he said, having left the pulpit to preach from the center aisle. “Revival means to give life; it’s resurrection. Imagine our country, imagine what we would say to the immigrant and refugee, imagine what America would say to the rest of the world, imagine what the rest of the world would say to us if that way of love became our way.”

Heading to the end of his sermon Curry told the congregation: “Don’t be afraid to be people of love. Don’t be afraid to stand up for the name of Jesus. Don’t be afraid to reclaim this faith again. And don’t you be ashamed to be an Episcopalian.”

As an Episcopal sort of altar call, Curry invited people to sing “There Is a Balm in Gilead” in which Christians are told that it does not matter if they are not good at preaching or praying. Instead, they should simply tell someone else about the love of Jesus. “As we sing, in your own way I invite you to recommit – or commit – yourself to following the way of Jesus, to being a part of his movement in this world,” the presiding bishop said.

Curry returned to Pittsburgh Theological Seminary that afternoon to welcome Episcopalians and others from across the diocese for a conversation billed as “Bridging Divides and Healing Communities” and aimed at beginning to form relationships among individuals and churches in hopes that they can work together to address hopelessness, poverty and addiction in local communities.

Kim Karashin, Pittsburgh’s Canon for Mission, told Episcopal News Service before the conversations began that the “best case scenario” for the gathering would be that people agree to meet again to talk about these issues but that this gathering was about getting to know each other. “We’re not going to move the needle without building relationships,” she said.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who joined in welcoming people to the conversation, said later during the news conference that Pittsburgh is a divided community needing this sort of training in conversation to cultivate leaders who can step in during emergencies and try to move people into productive ways of acting.

“Pulling a community together only happens with things like this,” he said. “You have to be pro-active; you can’t wait until something happens. It’s taking these actions that will help build those bridges that we speak about.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry prepares to shoot a video on his cell phone of an altar frontal with some Diocese of Pittsburgh youth. The youth put paint and glitter on their feet and walked across a piece of material to make an altar frontal symbolizing the Jesus Movement. Image credit: The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg /ENS

The last day of the Pittsburgh revival featured two Eucharists: the first at Calvary Episcopal Church, and the second 40 minutes away at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, McKeesport, in the economically struggling Monongahela River Valley south of Pittsburgh. Representatives of nearly three dozen Episcopal congregations gathered at St. Stephen’s to support “The Mon Valley Mission,” which is a new effort to revive the faith and well-being of the river communities.

Curry used the morning’s gospel story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well to tell the McKeesport congregation that God pushes people to build bridges between people who society says are enemies. In their conversations at the well, Curry said, both Jesus and the Samaritan woman learn something about each other and themselves. Moreover, the woman discovered within her the image of God and she experienced the love of God as being active in her life, he said.

The service ended with Curry commissioning all 320 people in attendance to be disciples sharing the good news of Jesus.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

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