‘Something to Celebrate’

By Zachary Guiliano

The mood was jubilant at General Convention’s daily Eucharist on Friday. The Theodicy Jazz Collective was playing as the bishops, deputies, and visitors assembled.

“We have something to celebrate today,” singer Ann Phelps said, mere hours after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is a Constitutional right. She invited those present to sing, dance, and celebrate with the band.

They opened with “Siyahamba” or “We are marching,” the famous liberation song from South Africans’ long struggle against apartheid. Cheering greeted the song’s beginning, and its conclusion brought a roar of approval.

Then came “People of God, gather together” for the processional. Those gathered found joy in the words “Come, let us sing on this glorious day,” including Bishop Tom Ely, who tweeted during worship, “Great opening hymn on this historic day. ‪#gc78 ‪#SCOTUSMarriage ‪#LoveIsLove.”

The Rev. Gay Jennings did not address the Supreme Court’s decision in her sermon.. She spoke about the importance of vision in the Christian tradition, and the need to interpret it.

“We don’t believe in untethered visions, but we also don’t believe in reality untethered from vision. We don’t seek solutions whose only virtue are that they save us time or save us money. We seek solutions that serve the Kingdom,” she said.

The church’s work, she said, is to take the “dreams of our seers and make them sensible to the people around us.”

Readings for the Eucharist were Isaiah 6:1-5, Psalm 24, Revelation 5:8-14, and John 17:17.23.

Jennings gave a humorous account of what “John of Patmos” might have seen if he came to the House of Deputies, such as “a being with six arms” and electronic voting. And there was “a voice that caused all to tremble [and] said, ‘Sit down. You are out of order,’” she said.

“Visions exist,” Jennings said, “because the God we serve can’t be fully understood nor perfectly served.”

After an intercessor prayed, “We give thanks for those among us who are called to serve,” a voice from the front said, “And for the affirmations of the Supreme Court.”

The relatively restrained character of the written service did not hinder Episcopalians from interpreting songs and words through the day’s news, especially on Twitter.

Joseph Peters-Mathews said, “I’m in the #pressroom and hearing ‘I want to walk as a child of the light,’ which was a profound part of my coming out.”

Broderick Greer tweeted, “Jesus … broke bread with outcasts.”

Kevin Montgomery responded, “… and sinners. Thanks be to God.”

The service closed with “God comes to us as one unknown” by Timothy Dudley-Smith.

The closing benediction admonished those present to remember that the world is “too dangerous for anything but truth and too large for anything but love.

After the closing “Thanks be to God,” a number of people let out spontaneous shouts before the postlude drowned them out: Widor’s Toccata-Symphony 5 on organ, with occasional cuts in from Theodicy Jazz Collective.

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