We have stepped across a threshold in the life of the Diocese of Lexington. As a matter of fact, we have stepped across more than one. The one particularly on my mind the day after the 117th Convention of the Diocese is that this is the first post-convention coverage in our modern history that will be completely digital. One of the up sides of that fact is that both pre and post convention reports, even the Bishop’s sermon and Convention Address, can be available to the entire diocese in a most immediate way. Indeed, if Facebook responses are any indication, social media has had images and info posting regularly throughout this Thursday night through Saturday noon annual gathering of the Diocesan family.
Our coverage of both Diocesan and General Convention has always endeavored to give more than the facts: to impart through image and written word something of the living spirit of the people and parishes who are the Diocese of Lexington as they come together in this time set apart for us to worship, connect, share-and oh yes, do the business of our Church. I didn’t know this particular coverage was going to happen until I heard preacher at Christ Church Cathedral say from the pulpit on Sunday morning after convention, “What is the character of faithfulness?” As he spoke, I moved with him from the morning’s reading on Abram and Sarai to our own personal questions of God in times when our faith is shaky, to thoughts of how the character of faithfulness was so present on this particular weekend.
Perhaps the first of the weekend’s symbols of faithfulness (and thresholds!) –- for they were not contained in the Downtown Hilton meeting rooms — surprised us all on Thursday evening. The weather forecast for freezing rain and hail was beginning to look accurate as a small group — Bishop, verger, deacons and photographer — stood outside the main doors of the Cathedral on Market Street, waiting for the signal that the Bishop could knock on the door to begin the ceremony in which he would be seated in his Chair, or Cathedra. Just inside the doors, beside the font, the Dean and altar party, wardens of the vestry, ushers and photographer waited. The closing of the doors, the knock, and the opening of the doors had been carefully rehearsed. The moment arrived. Cameras on both sides of the threshold were ready to document the historic moment. The Bishop lifted his hand to knock, and suddenly, without sound or assistance, the tall, heavy door opened, as if by an unseen hand. Photo images from both carefully planned angles show an unplanned blur, as the Seventh Bishop of Lexington stepped across the threshold and into his Cathedral. “Mysterious!” and ‘Wonderful beginning!”were among the exclamations from those who were present.
An usher could be seen checking on that door later in the evening, perhaps looking for an explanation of what really happened. Of course, most of the time with the mysterious, we’re left with the wonderment of the experience rather than rational explanation.
The Convention itself would be the second symbol of faithfulness and thresholds. 117 times the people of the Diocese of Lexington have gathered in this manner to worship, to work together. Long before it was possible for men and machines to create openings in the high hills of our commonwealth, widen our highways and straighten out the hairpin curves that kept us more isolated from each other, our ancestors were traveling over those hills and around those curves to do God’s work in their time in this place. They have passed down to us an amazing legacy of faithfulness—to our local, individual home congregations, and to our Diocese, one of the many gifts of our life as Anglicans. Faithfully you come each year. Faithfully you listen, deliberate, worship, share, enjoy. Faces of faithfulness come together, and going out to do the work God has given them to do.
The third symbol of faithfulness and threshold took place on the Saturday of Convention and on Sunday morning at Christ Church Cathedral. In both instances, I was blessed as a member of the Diocesan staff to be a part of recognizing long and faithful ministries –- three, among the many among us. Saturday, on behalf of the Diocese, the Convention honored the Rev. Phillip Haug, who for the last eleven years has served as Chair of the Communications Commission of the Diocese of Lexington, leading the tsunami of change that has taken us from a print-focused to digitally focused world. Sunday, I was present at the Cathedral to honor Ruth and Jesse Mark. During this same eleven year period, Ruth Mark was on the formation team for Church Under the Bridge as well as Pyramid Ministries which have helped hundreds find jobs. Jesse led the creation of Art at the Cathedral and has served as its Director, leading both the Cathedral and the Diocese to new thresholds of art and spirituality, as well as connections in interfaith endeavors and resources for art and spirituality throughout our Diocese. All have led their ministries to new thresholds, and as faithful leaders themselves, have given the gift of generativity, raising up a new generation to lead across thresholds to come. In each case, presenters spoke of how these faithful ministers were beacons of the light of Christ, constantly pointing others to the Source.
Hundreds of such symbols were held up during break out sessions on the Five Marks of Mission at Convention, and in videos where more faces of the faithful could be seen at work in God’s vineyard.
The convention’s concluding symbol of faithfulness and threshold came when, as business concluded, Bishop Hahn invited those present to come to a microphone and complete this sentence: “I dream of a church….” From across the ballroom, men, women and young people’s voices were heard:
“I dream of a church where Christ is all in all.”
“I dream of a church where all are treated with kindness and compassion.”
“I dream of a church where all are accepted and welcomed.”
“I dream of a church where structure does not impede ministry.”
“I dream of a church where we are known for our joy.”
“I dream of a church where we take worship to the streets.”
“I dream of a church where people are bursting with the proclamation of the Good News.”
“I dream of a church where the unchurched have the courage to enter.”
“I dream of a church where dreams are welcome.”….
In the words of the Convention Hymn, composed especially for this occasion, we sang:
We’ve come to acknowledge the freedom of God
Freedom of joy to contend with evil
Freedom of life without fear of oppression
Freedom of justice to our nation
Freedom of God’s unending love
We’ve come to acknowledge the wisdom of God
Wisdom of love that serves our neighbor
Wisdom of peace that brings battle to silence
Wisdom of patience for each other
Wisdom of truth in Christ our God
We’ve come to stand in the light of our Christ
Light of the world who has linked together
all of our lives upon this earthly planet
Let us see God in ev’ry person
Let us see Christ as Risen King!
We’ve come to live in the goodness of our King!
(Lexington-by Owen Sammons, St. Peter’s, Paris)
The weekend ended with a Choral Evensong at St. Peter’s on the Feast of Matthias, the Apostle who filled Judas’ place. In the Homily, the preacher spoke of how little was known of Matthias. Most importantly, she said, we know that Matthias had been in close relationship with Jesus from the beginning- constantly pointing others to Him.
It seemed the proper punctuation to the weekend of faithfulness and thresholds…. the way forward.
Faithfulness. Thresholds. Connecting the people of God in the Diocese of Lexington. Teaching. Proclaiming the Good News. Serving those in need. Correcting that which is unjust. Caring for creation.
Thanks be to God!