This morning, we celebrated a Festival Eucharist. The service music was especially commissioned for the occasion, in honor of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. The setting was composed by Craig Phillips of All Saints, Beverly Hills. Other music was commission for the liturgy from composer Owen Burdick of Trinity, Wall Street. For this liturgy, the tables were removed in favor of chairs. I haven't seen attendance figures yet, but I suspect there were several thousand people there. I'll work on getting some figures. The bishops were all there, but I have no good photos to show of the massed throng of bishops, since they were keeping photographers well away from the action.
Parts of the service (including the readings, the psalm refrain, and the Eucharistic prayer) were in various languages, showing the diversity of native languages of Episcopalians. Spanish and French were included, as well as Tagolog and Ojibwe. The music was mostly traditional Anglican music (albeit newly composed), except for the psalm, which included choral reading and exotic percussion instruments.
I found the preacher, Dr. Jenny Te Paa, to be surprisingly forthright in her conviction that the church must stand on the side of diversity, justice, and God's "unconditionally inclusive" love. Instead of a bland, don't-rock-the-boat preacher, this was a message that challenged us to seek both communion and justice.
The message was in stark contrast to Bishop Bob Duncan's remarks on Wednesday evening, in which he said we had reached "an impossible moment." Te Paa said that "in God's name, there is always hope." She challenged us to be wary of "sophistry masquerading as timeless theological truth."
Te Paa said that the real costliness of the Gospel is always known best by those at the margins (women, gays and lesbians, and others). The disciples, she said, did not always know better, because they did not know Jesus. We know Jesus, and who he was and is, and "still, we let fear and hypocrisy triumph." She was speaking, I think, not only of our church life, but our political and social lives as well.
It was a bold sermon, a fitting companion for bold music and the celebration of a Presiding Bishop who has had to be bold in ways I'm sure he never imagined when he took office.
Here are a few more photos from the service.
The service also included the UTO Ingathering. Here are UTO people lined up just before the opening procession.
The Very Rev'd George Werner, president of the House of Deputies, and Bonnie Anderson, president-elect and current Vice President of the House of Deputies lead a group in the procession.
Bishop Griswold walks in what will be one of his final processions as Presiding Bishop.