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Monday, June 19, 2006

Alive with joy!

Legislative Day # 6 Sunday, 06.18.06

I hardly have words to explain.

So, let me quote scripture.

Imagine Pentecost.

Read Acts 2 – especially vs. 15 when Peter says,

“Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning (substitute 4 o’clock in the afternoon).”

“No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days it will be,
God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all
and your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall
dream dreams,
Even upon my slaves, both men and
in those days, I will pour out
my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heave above
and signs on the earth below.

Got the picture?

That’s what it was like.

At least, that’s what it was like when I walked into the floor of General Convention a little after 3:30 PM.

The place was absolutely alive with joy!

The exact moment of the election? Well, that’s another story.

I had decided that I would take the afternoon off. I had arranged with one of the alternate deputies to cover for me. I had the whole afternoon planned: I would walk the 8 blocks to the local CVS and buy some laundry detergent to wash my blouses and, (as my southern friends say so delicately), “smalls.”

I also picked up some healthy munchies for the convention floor table: almonds, pistachios, goldfish. The legislative process is painstakingly slow. It takes an enormous amount of energy to watch paint dry. A body has to find strength somehow.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. It was hot, but tempered by a lovely breeze that kept the sun from being too strong. People were out walking, enjoying the day. Father’s Day.

Around 3:05 PM, I was walking back down High Street, just crossing Gay Street (I kid you not), when a sudden gust of wind just about blew me off my feet. My General Convention name badge twirled round and round, and my skirt got caught in the scaffolding of the construction site I was walking under. It literally took my breath away.

Then, into the sudden calm, my cell phone went off. A friend in Convention Hall text messaged me to say that he had just heard a rumor from a very reliable source that Katherine Jefferts-Schori had been elected Presiding Bishop. Had I heard anything? No, I typed back. Within five minutes, the information was confirmed. We had elected a woman as Presiding Bishop with the necessary vote on the fifth ballot.

I smiled broadly, looking for all the world and the people passing me on the side walk like a fool. Then, I felt a chill go through my entire body, over taking me and waking every nerve with joy. I whooped and danced a dance to Shekinah, the Holy Spirit.

People looked at me with startled looks. A homeless man looked up absently from his place on the park bench and smiled. Although he had no idea of the particulars, he immediately recognized joy when he saw it and waved his hand in the air and whooped with me. I dug into my pocket, found a dollar bill and some change and gave it to him. He whooped and hollared and danced with me. A few well dressed folk made a wide path around me on the sidewalk.

I didn’t care. I knew. I had known it in the morning. I think I had known it all along.

I had awakened at 5:30 AM to be at the Triennial Episcopal Women’s Caucus Breakfast which began at 7 AM. I have served on the board for a term and as the incoming national president, I wanted to be there to help with the set up.

As I looked over the possibilities of choices, I decided to honor my hunch about Bishop Katherine’s election by wearing purple: my skirt, blouse and sandals were purple.

I love the color purple, but for years I had not worn it, always concerned that someone would suspect me of having “purple fever,” meaning that I had ambitions to become a bishop. When asked, I would always laugh and say, “Oh, I hope God loves me more than that.” And, I suspect God does – at least I pray s/he does.

Finally, when I turned fifty, I decided that I was not going to let the insecurities of others influence my choice of clothing. I decide that I was self-differentiated and confident enough to have finally achieved a measure of healthy autonomy (the second milestone after trust, as described in Eric Erickson’s Stages of Development), to wear what I wanted to wear without being dictated by the neurotic concerns of others.

So, today I wore purple for Bishop Katherine. It was my outward sign and symbol of the inward and spiritual hope I carried into the day.

And, I was not disappointed. The Holy Spirit has not yet ceased to disappoint.

There are some continued evidences of the aftermath of her presence:

Marge Christie was the first lay deputy to confirm Bishop Katherine’s election. Marge, now in her mid-70’s, was one of the founding members of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus and one of the major pioneers for the ordination of women. This is, no doubt, her last convention. Hearing her confirmation at the microphone was like hearing the Song of Simeon,

“O Lord, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;"

I’m told that, after the election was announced, Bishop Barbara Harris, tears streaming down her face walked over to Bishop Katherine to embrace her. As she did, she was overheard to say, “I never – ever – thought that in my lifetime, I would see this.” And then, they both sobbed in each other’s arms.

“ . . . for mine eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

I’m also told that Bishop Gene Robinson was heard to say, “Thanks be to God. At last, I’m finally old news!” And the place erupted in hearty laughter.

Bishops came wandering into the House of Deputies looking absolutely awed and amazed. Over and over and over again they said, “My God. My God. Isn’t this amazing?”

And, they said, “What is the Holy Spirit doing to The Episcopal Church?”

The House of Deputies was absolutely alive with joy. People weeping in a kind of happiness which approached bliss. People hugging and rocking each other. People bursting into whoops and cheers and peels of laughter. People stunned into awe and wonder, scratching their heads and looking off into space.

And then, there was the deputation from Ft. Worth: glum faces talking on cell phones. People were respectful and let them have their space, but it was painful to see this little island of misery and sorrow in the midst of unabashed joy.

It wasn’t twenty minutes later and the politics had begun. Well, the progressives had “won” this one. Now, would the LGBT community be willing to sacrifice themselves for the Windsor Report? The Anglican Communion has already been "seriously impaired" (Gee, I thought it had already been "broken") by the election of a woman as Primate. We wouldn’t want to further compromise the communion, would we?

As if the LGBT community had somehow engineered the election of the Presiding Bishop!

Never mind. Tomorrow is another day. I suspect that the mood of the house is not predisposed to sacrificing anyone on the altar of the false idol that has become The Windsor Report.

I heard someone say, "We are to be compliant to the Gospel, not the Windsor Report."

That won’t stop the bloody battle. Swords are drawn. Battle plans are made. War has unofficially been declared. By Monday afternoon, it is bound to get very, very ugly.

Some expect the LGBT community to fall on their own swords in the name of unity.

We won’t, of course.

How could we?

Shekinah is in the house!

For the first time in the history of the Episcopal Church, we have a woman as a Presiding Bishop.

When a woman who is a priest holds up a host and says, “This is my body,” the Incarnation comes alive in a whole new way.

When a woman who is a bishop holds up the host and says, “This is my body,” we begin to understand something new about the power of God to raise up and empower the lowly.

I have never seen it, but I suspect that when a woman who is a Presiding Bishop holds up the host and says, “This is my body,” we will be invited even deeper into the mystery of our Triune God.

Listen! Can you hear it? The Magnificat is being chanted by the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

Is it any wonder that the church is alive with joy!

Elizabeth 06.18.06


Ann said...

It is Katharine (note the other "a") -- thanks for the thoughts - I was surprised that you had taken the day off - but glad for your spirit filled experience

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Not the whole day, Ann. The afternoon. From 2 - 6 PM is all. It was the Sabbath, afterall and a girl needs to do her laundry. And, take a nap - which, of course, didn't happen.

BTW, I'm horrified as I look over the past postings and find typo's and errors. Please understand that most of these posts are being written after midnight.

I'm not whining here, but I'm pretty sleep deprived - and I don't have an editor.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima nissan stanza.

Back to the salt mines.

Mata H said...

Oh thank you for this post. I read it and am weeping with joy with you. I spent the day saying what Bishop Harris said -- "I never thought I'd live to see this day." I am ecstatic for the ECUSA but also feel just so personally lifted up, so ransomed. It is a bit like finding in love - when you didn't realize how lonely you were before without it.

Catherine said...

It's a great time in the church to be a Katharine of any spelling! No offense to those otherwise biblically named...but what a revelation, an epiphany, a star over the Church....

All the prayers from every corner of the Communion have been heard IF they prayed for God's will at this convention...and it has been so.

Thank you Elizabeth+ for a wonderful peace that articulates how we women feel at the continued movement of the Holy Spirit in all Her glory.


Mata H said...

P>S> I have referenced this post in my own blog. It is so deeply moving. Thank you again for writing it.

JimMollo said...

I've been cursing at my computer a great deal lately... cursing ignorance and learning that Senior Wardens want to defend their Beloved Priests from bullies. Today was my first big smile... I read the reports yesterday on the news and now sit here with my 2 1/2 year old daughter... knowing that anything is possible... for me and for her... in Jesus. Keep the faith and know that we love you. See you soon! Jim

Random Ramblings NJ said...


Just as I was starting to absorb the wonderful news about the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori, I heard of the announcement by the Fort Worth deputation at HoB and HoD from Integrity.

What's cooking?

Be assured of my ongoing prayers.