by the Rev. Deacon Paula Waite
2nd Annual Evangelism Event, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Saturday, November 23, St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Middletown, Delaware
This past June, I had the privilege of attending the Association of Episcopal Deacons Triennial Conference with the Very Rev. Pat Malcolm and the Rev. Cecily Sawyer. The highlight of this three-day conference was the chance to hear our presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, share his Way of Love initiative. In his keynote address, Curry spoke of a need for a revival — a revival that will reemphasize the importance of relationships. In what he called, “an avalanche of hatred and bigotry and exclusiveness and violence,” he encouraged a revival, “… tenderly realized in the cultivation and nurture of relationships.” To support this idea, Curry used the conversation between Jesus and Peter following the resurrection (Jn. 21). Curry emphasized that instead of Jesus asking Peter, “Simon son of John do you believe in the three articles of the Nicene Creed,” he simply asked, “Simon do you love me?” Jesus was not condemning any mistakes Peter may have made; rather, it was an opportunity for Jesus to help that relationship heal from the breach that happened when Jesus was arrested and Peter denied knowing him. As followers of Jesus, we have a unique and important opportunity to help our world heal by extending the hospitality that is inherent in our Baptismal Covenant.
One of the core values that our Covenant presents is continuing a prayerful lifestyle that emphasizes fellowship, “with God’s help … we will continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” (BCP pg. 304). We offer the example of hospitality when we authentically welcome people into our parish homes and to God’s table. We support and lift up those in our churches who are greeters and ushers, encouraging those who serve in this capacity to enjoy being the first face of welcome. We want to welcome the stranger in our midst as we would welcome a visitor into our own homes.
With God’s help, we also commit to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ” (BCP pg. 305). We cannot come together one day each week for worship and assume this will make a difference in the world outside our doors. We are charged to be visible examples of God’s love in every action we take. These actions may include participating in community activities or sharing positive messages on social media. Or it can be action-oriented like the recent silent vigil, hosted by St. Peter’s, Lewes.
Our Baptismal Covenant also states very clearly that we will each “… strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human,” (BCP pg. 305), and love our neighbors as ourselves. In this world where the news continually reports the darkest side of humanity, we are working toward resurrection and revitalization of the human family. A revival is defined as an improvement in the condition or strength of something. Coming together in solidarity and with hope, we can make the small but mighty Episcopal Church in Delaware a beacon to those in our communities who are lost, drowning in the political divisiveness that saturates the news of the day.
Hospitality and relationship directly oppose the view of seeing those who are different from us as the other. We have a chance to embrace our communities by living into the hospitality of our Episcopal neighborhood.
Invite Welcome Connect creator, Mary Parmer, states, “Living into our Baptismal Covenant is a lifelong process, and it begins with prayerful intentionality and a conscious decision to become reflections of Christ in our actions and reactions to life.” This ministry is relational, and according to Curry, “We’re here because we have a God for whom relationship is central to the very heart and soul … in God’s very self, there is relationship, there is kinship, there is affection.”
Last fall more than 300 clergy and laypersons came together at the Invite Welcome Connect conference hosted by Christ Church, Christiana Hundred. It was a day filled with fellowship, vitality, and new ideas — sending attendees back to their parish homes eager to share stories about their participation. During the year that has followed, our parishes tried many new things, some that worked and others that are ideas that have yet to be implemented.
We want to continue to cultivate that energy with another day of connection and sharing as we more fully embrace the hospitality of our Baptismal Covenant. The Episcopal Church in Delaware is committed to expand our Episcopal neighborhood by engaging faithfully with each other and the communities around us.
This means we need you, all of you. We want to explore possibilities for large and small churches in our diocese to find out what works and what doesn’t. Our 2nd Annual Invite Welcome Connect day on November 23 will be an opportunity for us to grow in knowledge and commitment to spread the Good News. The day will include discussions about reaching out to the Latinx community, welcoming individuals with different abilities, and offering something millennials will find attractive. We will feature a plenary on using social media and hear from our peers about changes they have made using the stipend that the Rt. Rev. Kevin Brown provided to each parish.
We would like to have vestry, laypersons, and clergy together again as we continue to learn, explore, and live into the tangible hospitality of our Baptismal Covenant.
We are the Episcopal neighborhood in Delaware — let’s grow!
The Rev. Deacon Paula Waite is a deacon at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church and the co-chair of the Clergy Growth and Vitality Group. email@example.com