A report on the 118th Convention of the Diocese of Washington - by Emily Guthrie.
Diocesan Convention, which took place on a recent Friday and Saturday at the National Cathedral, is an in-gathering of all clergy resident in the diocese as well as delegates from each of the 89 congregations. While business is conducted, this year’s convention continued the trend of focusing less on debate and more on exchange of ideas, worship, and deepening our understanding of what it means to be in community with one another. All aspects of the gathering reflected Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde’s passion for congregational vitality and the challenge of making church relevant and available to the people who aren’t necessarily going to walk through our doors. It requires both confidence in who we are as Episcopalians and the courage to adapt to the realities and needs of the current culture around us.
Keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile in his talk entitled “Joining God in the Neighborhood” tracked the arc of change in the Episcopal Church’s place in American religious life and national culture, which can explain why many of us have a sense that we are bigger and more influential than we truly are! In his book the People of the Way, Zschiele looks at what it is to be practioners of the Way of Jesus and constant learners. He points out that in many ways, the church in our current cultural context has more in common with the early church than anything since. In the first and second centuries, Christianity spread not by right belief but by the witness of a community of compassion, of ordinary people behaving differently in their daily spheres of influence. People noticed they were different. He left us with the question: “What do people notice about us?” To watch both the Bishop’s address and the keynote address or read the resolutions, go to the diocesan website www.edow.org .
Five great workshops were offered – even the titles of which give you a sense of the conversation: “Overcoming Barriers to Congregational Growth” (led by Bishop Mariann!); “Going Deeper: Congregational Spiritual Practices for a New Era of Mission”; “Core Episcopal Identity”; “Young Adult Evangelism and New Ministry Expressions” and “Fifty Shades of Liturgy: a Conversation about Liturgy in the Context and Culture of Community.”
There was some business conducted! Two resolutions passed: one affirming the need to urge members and parishes to study, pray and act to promote a just peace in Israel and Palestine…specifically supporting the efforts of the Diocese of Jerusalem; and one following up on our 2012 resolution to the general convention in support of statehood for the District of Columbia. Both will be available in the parish hall and on the EDOW website. Finally, we passed the 2013 budget and there were elections for open positions on the working committees for the Diocese. St. Margaret’s is well represented: the Bishop appointed Kym to the Commission on Ministry; Emily was elected to the Standing Committee; Polly continues to serve on Diocesan Council; Robin Lumsdaine serves on the Finance Committee; and Maggie Carson, on the Commission on Youth.
All in all, it left this participant grateful to be a part of this diocese and challenged to take risks together to make the gifts of St. Margaret’s and the Episcopal Church known to our neighbors.