As I write this, I am sitting at my computer with my newest foster puppy on my lap. "Luke" arrived here yesterday via transport van from the Bakersfield area. He's about 11 weeks old and a 5 or 6-lb bundle of cuddly, warm, cuteness, who had probably never been separated from his mother and sister until this transport. . . So far, he's a bit of a velcro puppy and is particularly fond of my lap, or anyplace where he can secure a good snuggle. Luke would argue that when the whole world has changed, and life feels a bit scary. . . A warm lap and a lot of love goes a long way toward making things better.
The Episcopal Church seems to be on the same page. Our world, our communities, our churches have changed so much over the past half century . . . and we continue to evolve. Some of that change feels particularly hard.
• Fewer people are connected to community groups, church congregations, and other social support structures, contributing to an epidemic of loneliness.
• We are living through a period of rapid climate change in which most of the world's population is impacted by extreme heat, drought, fires, and flooding. Our planet's ecosystems are struggling.
• Human diversity (of cultures, languages, genders, abilities, experiences, and beliefs) - the source of so much creativity, texture, and beauty in the world - too often divides us, leading to conflict, polarization, fear, distrust, and despair.
Sometimes it seems like the whole world has changed, and life feels a bit scary. We all long for a warm lap to curl up on. So. . . what does it mean to be a follower of Jesus during these times?
It is with this question that Alan and I recently attended "It's All About Love - A Festival for the Jesus Movement" in Baltimore. This Episcopal Church "revival" was organized around three primary themes - Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation, and Creation Care. Those themes were reflected in our rousing daily worship services, in a myriad assortment of festival workshops, and in dozens of information booths. Alan and I separately selected workshops to attend, with his interests circling around evangelism and mission, and mine mostly focused on Creation Care. It's not that we were uninterested in Racial Reconciliation - it's just that there were too many concurrent workshops!
Presiding Bishop Curry joined us for the opening day worship, speaking on his favorite topic - Love. . . God's love for us embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus; Jesus's calling for us to love and care for one another; and the essence of love as "God's GPS," helping us to live life as God intended, in harmony with one another and with all of creation. I can tell you that it is a joy to watch Bishop Curry preach. His excitement and energy are infectious. His call to focus on Love as our source, our calling, and our strength was a great theme with which to kick off the festival. If anybody is interested in watching his sermon, let me know. I have the recording and transcript on email and would be happy to share.
What are my main takeaways from this event?
Bishop Curry's reminder - It's All About Love. Love God; Love your neighbor; and while you're at it, Love yourself - because God does! This message is foundational.
There is a significant movement of Creation Care in the Episcopal Church, in which "eco grief" is recognized, environmental connection and activism is encouraged, and liturgy is being shaped to help us respond to the challenges of our time. We have opportunities to connect with others in this space and collectively see where the Spirit leads us. In fact, there's a monthly digital Creation Care Compline service, which I'll be attending!
Today's Episcopal Church is a diverse, creative, and dynamic community, committed to serving our communities and our world. We must be willing to evolve as the world is quickly evolving and to follow Jesus as we look for direction and navigate obstacles. We can't get so caught up in the challenges of church administration and the "way we've always done things" that we weaken our ability to hear and respond to His call.
4. Life is hard. It is important to revive our spirits and to support each other. The world can weigh us down and we sometimes need to seek out fresh energy and new perspectives.
So. . . Luke the puppy is still resting peacefully on my lap. Not a care in the world. I pray that we all can find that sort of hope and security in God's love as He leads us forward as "The Episcopal Branch of The Jesus Movement."