Witnessing and Juggling, Birds and Bats:

What is our deputation up to in Austin?

by Lola Michael Russell


On a blistering hot Sunday, July 8, members of the Delaware deputation joined over a thousand other Episcopalians and Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, in a convoy of buses from Austin to the T. Don Hutto Detention Facility in rural Taylor, Texas, where 500 women are housed. There, in a “Prayer of Vision, Witness, and Justice” they stood in public observance of the actions of the U.S. government in its enforcement of immigration policies that have separated families in recent months.

“We do not come in hatred, we do not come in bigotry, we do not come to put anybody down — we come to lift everybody up. We come in love. We come in love because we follow Jesus and Jesus taught us love,” said Curry, in his sermon. “Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor,” Curry said, and his list of neighbors included liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Independent, the neighbor one likes and the neighbor one doesn’t like, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Palestinian, Israeli, refugee, immigrant, and prison guard. “Love your neighbor,” Curry shouted to the crowd, which responded with a resounding “yes.” “We come in love,” he said.

The Rev. Ruth Beresford and the Rev. Patty Downing, pictured, are part of the Delaware Deputation waving to the women in the T. Don Hutton Detention Center.

Our deputies joined in the chant of “no estan solas!” or “you are not alone,” and waved to the women they could see, pressed against the windows of the detention facility, a former medium security prison which has been the target of frequent lawsuits over issues including harsh conditions, poor food, and sexually abusive guards. In a Twitter post following the prayer service, Grassroots Leadership (a non-profit organization working to eradicate prison profiteering, mass incarceration, and deportation) posted that the women in the prison were crying, just knowing they are not alone. “Not leaving anyone alone is at the core of loving one’s neighbor and following Jesus’ teachings,” Curry said. For the Delaware deputies, this act of witness was one of the highlights of a convention already filled with memorable shared events.

Curry’s Revival on July 7 was also a powerful experience for all. In a rousing sermon, Curry said,”Oh, my Lord! Let the whole Church say Amen! Say it again. Say it one more time! Amen! I’m out of breath for ya. This is a blessed night. It is a blessed night. We gather this night. Many of us are Episcopalians. Many of us are from other Christian traditions and families. Many of us are people of good will of no particular denomination or stripe. Some of us are probably Republicans. And some of us are probably Democrats. Some of us are probably Independents. But all of us are children of God. All of us! All of us! And that’s what we celebrate this night. We come together as the children of God. Like that old song used to say when I was a kid, ‘Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight.’ All! All! All!” The assembled singers sang, “Every time I feel the spirit moving in my heart, I will pray,” and later delegates’ voices joined the musicians in singing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”

For the deputies thus revived, the long convention days are filled not only with official business but also with much needed times of laughter and communion with fellow attendees.

Our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown, delighted many with a display of his impressive juggling skills.

A couple of intrepid pigeons have charmed deputies with their friendly participation, flying in the rafters, strutting on the house floor, and alighting on deputy tables and speaker stands. One even has his own Twitter account @gc79pigeon with over 700 followers to date!

Some of our deputies have joined the throng of people who gather every night at Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge to watch over a million Mexican free-tail bats fly out in massive swarms in search of food. It is the largest urban bat colony in the world. Thousands of people stand on the bridge or on the trails below, and wait on boats in the Colorado River to view this incredible spectacle.

The juggling, the birds, and the bats have provided some light relief in a grueling schedule.

In a city well known for its outstanding restaurants, there is only time to grab a quick bite during convention days that start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 11:00 p.m. when the daily Delaware deputation meeting winds down in a separate room.

As the vital work of convention continues, our delegates are in our prayers as they continue their efforts on our behalf.

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