General Convention: So Much To Do

General Convention: So Much To Do

Hutto Detention Center service

A reflection from deputy Sharon Rodgers, St. Mary’s, Eugene:

In preparation for the Bishops United Against Gun Violence public witness event on Sunday, the group of more than 80 Episcopal bishops handed out 96 crosses a day, one for every person killed by a gun in the United States on a daily basis.

As chilling as that statistic is, it paled in comparison to the speeches we heard from the parents of Carmen Schentrup, one of the students murdered at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School on Ash Wednesday.

I was moved to tears, as were most people there, as Carmen’s father described how initially he simply could not function – couldn’t eat, or sleep or think, how Lent for their family was a visceral experience, and how for him Easter did not bring the joy of previous years. He spoke of how angry he was at God for allowing this to happen, until, in what for him was a true moment of enlightenment, he realized it wasn’t God but people, who had allowed this tragedy to occur, and it was up to people to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.

We heard as well from a fourteen-year-old incoming high school freshman who spoke with eloquence far beyond her  years about how she and her friends are determined to bring about change, so that kindergarteners don’t have to be afraid to go to school. (Read more in coverage from Episcopal News Service.)

From the rally we all climbed on buses, 14 buses in all, and rode to the Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, where a service was held. Much more meaningfully for many of us, we were able to stand on the far side of the parking lot from the detention center itself and call and wave to the women inside. They in turn moved paper up and down the slit-like windows to let us know that they could see and hear us.

I was again moved to tears, knowing the hundreds of women inside are all asylum seekers, 40 of whom have had their children taken away from therm. I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve felt such a burning need to get involved, to try to do all in my power to make a difference. (Watch a short video of this service from Episcopal Cinema.)

On Tuesday, the House of Bishops voted to readmit Cuba as a diocese into The Episcopal Church (it was terminated as a missionary diocese in 1968), and on Wednesday, July 11, the House of Deputies concurred. Becky Snow of Trinity, Ashland chaired the committee on The Episcopal Church in Cuba and the Rev. Roberto Maldonado of Iglesia Santa Cruz/Holy Cross, Gresham testified on the importance of this decision to reunite.

After the historic (and unanimous!) vote in the House of Deputies, attendees burst into cheers and tears as the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, Bishop of the Diocese of Cuba, and the deputies were welcomed onto the floor to a table complete with their own placard. (See more photos from this moving moment.)

For me personally this has been an exhausting convention so far, largely because my Committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music has had to deal with proposed new editions of both the Book of Occasional Services and a revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. We are close to being done with our work on those, after which my personal pace will slow somewhat.