by Lola Michael Russell
For a second year, our annual convention was held in brilliant winter sunshine at the Princess Royale Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland, now renamed Delaware South! With the theme Say It Aloud: The Power of the Word, some 300 met, and what a joyful gathering it was!
Delegates registered, friends happily greeted one another, and one of convention’s featured parishes, All Saints’ Church & St. George’s Chapel, offered a welcome bag containing water, home-made cookies, chocolate, mini knitted prayer shawl, pen, key ring calendar, and an inspirational quotation from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” Before the first business session began, attendees browsed the 18 exhibit tables, which offered a range of products from jewelry to information on retreats.
In purple cassock, the Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown welcomed the convention to order and thanked the members of Anamchara Fellowship and Daughters of the King for providing a place of prayer and support throughout the time we gathered. Brown appointed Sr. Julian Wilson as convention chaplain, and she opened us in prayer. Her gentle presence graced us and set a peaceful tone.
A quorum was certified, and business got underway. After a video about the first featured church, Christ Church, Delaware City, members of the parish were recognized. Brown then addressed convention.
During this business session, Brown also highlighted 2018 accomplishments, including
- a reboot of commission on ministry
- the upgraded diocesan website
- the successful Invite Welcome Connect (IWC) conference, which attracted the largest single gathering of people within the diocese, and
- the wonderful work of PACT (Practical Approaches for Cross-Cultural Transformation), now folding its efforts into IWC.He also announced several staff changes in the mission support office:
- Kathleen Moore as his executive assistant
- Cynde Bimbi as director of communications
- Judith (Judi) Gregory to the newly created position of canon for finance and administration
The Rev. Canon Gary Rowe’s retirement as canon to the ordinary, with a new canon to be in place this spring.
Resolutions were read, assigned to one of four open hearings (Sowing the Seeds, Tending the Garden, Sharing the Harvest, and Budget). Sr. Julian closed the session with a beautiful prayer from the Iona Community:
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the Son of peace to you.
The day provoked lively conversations among the attendees during the social hour in the ocean front atrium. There, after a delicious dinner, the Rev. Canon C. K. (Chuck) Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Ministry Beyond the Episcopal Church, presented his keynote address, Say It Aloud: Clarity, Civility, & Connection. Robertson travels the world representing the Most. Rev. Michael B. Curry, and he engaged the audience with vigor and humor.
The day ended with a peaceful Compline led by the sisters and brothers of the Anamchara Fellowship.
The day dawned with a beautiful sunrise over the ocean and an ample buffet breakfast served in the sunny atrium. Thus fortified, attendees gathered for a joyful Eucharist, with the readings of Isaiah 55:1-13 and John 15:1-11, proscribed for a convention.
After noting the irony of these Biblical images of the garden in these passages, Brown preached about growing in the living vine of God with an internal and spiritual growth. He explained that the real guide for good gardening is Jesus Christ. When the Word of God goes out, it does not return empty. Things happen!
After communion, the service culminated in an uplifting rendition of This Little Light Of Mine, sung by all as we cheerfully waved candles in the air. For a full transcription and video of Brown’s homily see page 32. Business Session II began with prayer, the report of the first ballot, and instructions for the second ballot. Various committee reports were given, and the Necrology was read. Brown recognized the mission support staff, camp and conference center staff, and communications team. He particularly recognized the service of Judi Gregory by awarding her a pin of the diocesan shield.
Walt Lafontaine, executive director of Camp Arrowhead, reported on camp and introduced its new video, available here. A video from All Saints’ Church and St. George’s Chapel was shown, and the chair recognized members of the parish.
After lunch in the atrium, business session III was opened with a presentation about IWC. The Rev. Calhoun Wick coordinated this presentation, which was introduced by a video from Curry. Representatives from 23 churches briefly spoke about IWC efforts in their parishes with the promise of more successes to come.
A video of the third featured church, St. Peter’s, Smyrna, and recognition of its members, was followed by reports, discussion, and passing of the resolutions; the diocesan council’s treasurer report; and presentation of the annual budget. Cynde Bimbi gave a presentation on the work of the new communications team. The chair recognized all the youth delegates and attendees, then thanked all who had stood for office and commissioned the newly elected.
With the announcement of the dates for the 235th annual convention (January 24 and 25, 2020) Brown recognized the service of Gary Rowe. After receiving a standing ovation, Rowe closed the proceedings with the following grace-filled prayer:
“Holy Spirit, ever-present, be present now as we leave this place. You have breathed upon this 234th annual convention of the Episcopal Church in Delaware. Holy Spirit, breath of God, continue to breathe love and grace and truth and good humor into our hearts. Breathe a desire for brave and honest conversation among us … and breathe the mission of the Church in the name of Jesus upon our lives, our wills, our speech, our witness. Holy Spirit, go with us now as we proclaim the Good News — as we Say it Aloud — that there is power in the Word — the Word made flesh — the very Love of God — Jesus the Christ, in whose name we pray.”
And we all sang out, “Amen!”
Snapshot of Bishop Brown’s Address
Just as Brown began his address, the auditorium lights suddenly went out. Plunged into darkness, but unfazed, he said, “And, goodnight everybody!” His calm good humor prevailed throughout convention. With light restored, Brown continued his address, focusing on the passage of John’s gospel, “And the Word was made flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). Brown described the Word as a type of operating system for all nature, for how the world worked. With the Word, we upgrade our operating system.
How do we decide what to do next, prioritize, use our resources? Brown proposes that we share a common framework for vitality and renewal, using the timeless image of a garden as the Kingdom of God—Growing Delaware. This translates to sowing seeds, tending the garden, and sharing the harvest.
Sowing Seeds: All life comes from something that’s alive already. When planted, a small seed can grow into great things. We have to plant seeds.
Tending the Garden requires nurture, care, and attention. Seeds won’t grow unless we turn the soil.
Sharing the Harvest means feeding ourselves, sharing some with the world, and saving some seeds for the next planting.
Growing matters, so we repeat this cycle over and over again … sow, tend, share, repeat! A bold way to see the growth of the Kingdom of God in Delaware as our vision — a living instrument of God’s mercy and love.
Snapshot of Keynote Address —
The Rev. Canon C. K. Robertson
Robertson began by describing a late night call he received while on tour through Africa. The Most. Rev. Justin P. Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury was asking if Curry could preach at a small chapel service in England — the May wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In his wedding sermon Curry referred to love more than 60 times — a love that is strong and real, and it makes a difference.
Robertson went on to ask how do we show this love to one another, especially newcomers and guests? For them to understand, we must speak with clarity. We must train ourselves to become spiritual detectives and use language that is common to all, not Episcopal jargon (e.g., narthex, Canon to the Ordinary, Agnus Dei). To do so, clergy and lay leaders need to pray and listen.
Incorporating new people can result in change, and change can be uncomfortable. Like change, conflict is inevitable. Unresolved conflict can escalate until perceptions of reality become distorted, and a crisis emerges. In response, as a church, we must practice not only civil discourse, but Christ-like discourse.
To avoid escalating conflict, we need connection — connection to God and to one another, using Curry’s The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life.
With a blessing on each of us, Robertson closed.
For a full transcription of Robertson’s speech, click here.