Whenever I return to Hawai‘i from an extended trip on the mainland, I always love that moment at the airport when the fresh air of the islands soothes your body. The very second I step outside, I always take a deep breath. I have just returned from being away three weeks - two weeks away in Austin, Texas, due to General Convention, and one additional week spent with family in Chicago, Illinois.
This was my third time serving as a deputy to General Convention, and it continues to be an honor to serve. In many ways General Convention is a great festival of the Episcopal Church’s work in the world. There are large worship gatherings every day, inspiring messages to hear and enjoy, presentations on issues important to our church and society, and the work of resolutions translating into our official policies when it comes to politics, society, worship, governance, and more.
This year I was appointed to serve on the Social Justice and International Policy Legislative Committee. Our main focus, due to our church’s interest, was Israel and Palestine, and we heard emotional testimony from Palestinian Christians and Muslims, and Israeli Jews, about the vanishing prospects for peace in the Holy Land due to the ever-growing occupation. Beyond the Holy Land, our committee also grappled with immigration, refugees, human rights investment screens, and caste systems among others. So often we read about these issues in the press. The cogency of our legislative process at General Convention is that we hear firsthand from people who face these issues. The hearings can be extremely emotional, especially when you hear how people are suffering daily.
There were many great moments of reconciliation at this General Convention. Cuba was re-admitted as a diocese of the Episcopal Church, the parents of a Parkland gun violence victim addressed both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, we travelled to the Hutto Residential Center to stand in solidarity with immigrants and refugees, and there was a Liturgy of Lament for the #metoo movement. Time and time again we witnessed how the Episcopal Church heals so much of the brokenness in our world.
Finally, General Convention did some important liturgical work. Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 has been approved for trial use, and this is good news for Hawai‘i, for Queen Lili‘uokalani is commemorated in the calendar on November 11, the day of her death or new life in Christ. I spent some time after convention studying Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018, and I have been pleasantly surprised. In the recently issued calendars of our church, we often confused genius of achievement with holiness of life. This new calendar does not make this mistake, and at St. Mark’s we have already begun to incorporate Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018 into our daily mass celebrations. There is also a new Book of Occasional Services that has been authorized for trial use.
Even though General Convention can be tiring due to the twelve-to-fourteen-hour days, it is ultimately very rewarding to serve the church in this capacity. The convention has a rhythm of its own – we might even call it a holy process – and within that structure our church continues to speak with great wisdom. It was a pleasure to serve.
This coming Sunday, July 29, between the services at 9:00 am, we will gather for a discussion on the work of the 79th General Convention. I hope you can join us.
Father Paul Lillie+