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Presiding Bishop: ‘Remember Your Baptism’

“These are strange, difficult, and complex times,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in his recorded sermon for the first day of General Convention.

The opening Eucharist at the 80th General Convention reflected that. The House of Bishops and the House of Deputies used the same readings and heard the video sermon, but because of COVID and health regulations, they worshiped in separate rooms.

Curry noted many changes since the last General Convention in Austin, Texas, in 2018, citing key events that affected society in the last four years.

“We never imagined where we are now today,” he said. “Who could have imagined a global pandemic that would compel us for a period of time no longer to be able to worship in our churches, our mosques, our synagogues, our houses of worship, and be compelled to worship online? Who could have imagined or anticipated that a racial reckoning would be catalyzed by the death of a George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, an Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others? Who could have imagined the revelation of the pain of Indigenous boarding schools, of Native children buried a long, long way from home here in America? Who could imagine?

“Who could imagine the continued decline of organized religion and institutional churches and synagogues and mosques? Who could have imagined that the people of Ukraine would have to defend their homeland for freedom? Who could have imagined January the 6th in an attempt to overthrow the government of the United States of America? Who could have imagined the continued murder of the children of God and gun violence at a grocery store in Buffalo, an elementary school in Uvalde, the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, and our own Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama?”

Curry shared his experiences as a child in 1963, when the schools of his hometown of Buffalo, New York, were desegrated. “At that time, crossing Main Street was going from a black community to a white community.” Curry said his Sunday school teacher assured students that “going to a new school represented the dream of a new America, the dream of a new world.”

She told them, “Remember what the Bible says — do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Remember where you came from. When you go to a new and strange place, remember where you came from.”

He concluded his 34-minute sermon on that theme. “Remember your baptism. Remember this Jesus. Remember and be re-membered as God’s new creation, God’s beloved, God’s precious child. And remember, as the late Bishop Barbara Harris told us over and over again, the God behind you is greater than any problem ahead of you.”

The Rt. Rev. Diana Akiyama of the Diocese of Oregon celebrated in the House of Bishops. The The Rev. Lester V. Mackenzie of the Diocese of Los Angeles, chaplain of the House of Deputies, celebrated there.

The House of Deputies’ Prayers of the People included the names of deputies who have died since the last General Convention.

The House of Bishops’ chaplains — the Rev. Ricardo Bailey of the Diocese of Atlanta and the Very Rev. Miguelina Howell of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut — reviewed the changes that the design team faced in preparing the Eucharists because of the shifting nature of Convention. Howell said she “grieved the loss of diversity.”

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, will preach at Morning Prayer on Saturday. The Rev. Bryan Alexis Vélez-Garcia of the Diocese of Puerto Rico will lead the service.

In the House of Bishops, the chaplains will lead Morning Prayer.


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