I reflected on the ordinary people I have visited with who are our particular heroes during the fires that have blazed across the diocese. Men and women offering everything they have, sacrificially, for the other. This is obvious in our civil servants who have done so much for our people; including John Alexander (Bishop Neil Alexander, Atlanta) of the Austin Fire Department. This is less obvious to the casual observer but clear to your bishops that the great human outpouring of care throughout the diocese for those in need because of the fire disaster is not unlike Chisholm's incarnational ministry in the midst of great tragedy.
Every day at the HOB we have an Emcee and today it is Bishop Nedi Rivera of Eastern Oregon.
The Episcopal News Service offered this description of our time together: Bishop Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer for the Episcopal Church, greeted the bishops and talked about the Everyone Everywhere 2011 conference, a conference on domestic and global mission, will be held in October.
Bishop Scott Hayashi of Utah introduced the discussion on the Denominational Health Plan and the Lay Pension. Details were presented by representatives of Church Pension Group: Frank Armstrong, chief actuary and senior vice president; Laurie Kazilionis, vice president; Michael McDonald, vice president.
The afternoon was dedicated to a presentation and discussion on the "Spiritual Foundation for Prophetic Proclamation to the Least," presented by Don Compier, professor at St. Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Missouri, and in Spanish by the Rt. Rev. Naudal Gomes, bishop of Curitiba in Brazil. They impressed upon us the seeds of liberation theology present in our own Anglican history. They also made connections with our Eucharistic liturgy, Incarnation, and God's preferential option for the poor.
In my own reflection of the day's talks I found this last presentation for the day was excellent. Bishop Gomes gave a great and stirring talk about ministry on the ground, with the people, a mission and ministry that is incarnational and tangible. He offered illustrations about how the poor and homeless had given to him visions of God in ways he had not known before. He talked about the inter-mingling of scripture's Gospel of Grace and life lived with those with whom Jesus had a special relationship.
He talked about the church's work of knowing and announcing God's presence in the midst of people and communities. The work of the church to be open to how the poor can teach us about grace and to listen attentively within the context of our mission for God's words. And, he talked to us about the importance of engaging power to raise up the very best in our civil societies but how we also must be willing to speak out on Gospel imperatives. He got a very challenging question about how difficult it is to be close to power but not corrupted by it. He said that such work between the margins is the work of the Gospel. He ended by encouraging us forward through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was an excellent talk!
Then before breaking for evening prayer and dinner I along with two others were invited to address the House on the disasters in our diocese. This was one of the reasons why Bishop Harrison and I felt I should be here...to tell our story.
We heard first from Bishop Tom Ely of Vermont. He shared with HOB the devastation in the state as a result of the floods and the needs of the people. Their communities are suffering as many roads and bridges are gone. They have a shuttle system which gets food and supplies throughout the area of devastation. Two congregations suffered damage; many of the poor are suffering a great deal.
Bishop William Love of Albany spoke about the widespread impact of the flooding from Hurricane Irene. He shared with us his on the ground visits with people and congregations. He reflected with the group that (like our experience and Tom's that Episcopal Relief and Development has been very responsive). I also thought that I remember our same thoughts and needs post hurricanes that dealt heavy blows across the gulf coast. Both these diocese and many other smaller areas throughout the northeast will require years of recovery.
I then was able to provide a vision of our experience in the Diocese of Texas. If you are interested in the latest news, the short film, and how you can help today to meet the needs of the wildfire victims follow this link: http://www.epicenter.org/texas-wildfires
I am glad I came to be with the house. Not only to participate in prayer and to share our story from Texas but because by doing so a number of Bishops have promised funds; some in addition to funds already sent. Let me also say that many bishops have come to me personally and asked that I share their love and prayers for the people of Texas as we go through this trial. It was a humbling experience, a grace-filled experience, this morning to hear during our service of morning prayer bishops pray out loud for Bishop Harrison, myself, Lisa Hines, and all our people.
We concluded the daylong session with Evening Prayer, led by Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina.
It has been a special pleasure to sit and be with our visitors from around the Anglican communion. These are:
- The Rt. Rev. Naudal Gomes, bishop of Curitiba, Brazil;
- The Rt. Rev. Peter Price, bishop of Bath and Wells, Church of England;
- Archbishop Nathaniel Uematsu, primate of Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Episcopal/Anglican church of Japan);
- Archbishop Albert Chama, primate of Central Africa will arrive later in the meeting.
I will add a special note that Bishop Nathaniel's son was born in Austin and that he is a graduate for our Seminary of the Southwest. He is a wonderful man and we sat at Eucharist together yesterday. I am hopeful that he might join us in Texas for a visit. He has shared with us some of his experience post earthquake and the work that is underway there through his congregations and their mission.
Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.