“You are beautiful.”
Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves repeated this message again and again during her annual address during the 38th Convention of the Diocese of Camino Real on October 26th and 27th. Unveiling the newest annual theme, “Relational Courage” – a theme she borrowed from Jennifer Baskerville-Burroughs, Bishop of Indianapolis – she encouraged delegates, clergy, and all in attendance to reflect on how they arrived at the Episcopal Church, how the church has enriched them, and how they have enriched the church.
Citing the recent arrival of new Curator for Emerging Communities Kelsey Davis, and the launch of the diocesan Leadership Innovation Fund, she stressed that “we are the asset we most need to develop.”
“We can offer programs, make our worship as slick and performative as can be, offer the best and brightest sermons, the most moving of liturgies, and the greatest hospitality practices ever,” she told the crowd. “But ours is an incarnational faith. If we are not present, then the essence of Christianity is not present.”
Relational courage will be required, she added, as the diocese and its new bishop come into relationship – and into partnership – together.
“It has taken all of us and our courage to explore and practice new ways of exercising power,” she explained, “power held by many, discovering new connections of energy, and uploading more gifts and talents from more relationships, locations and sources. We have, in fact, practiced a ‘stewardship of episcope,’ oversight, that has been highly communal.”
Her 12th convention appearance was historic in being her final solo convention appearance; next year, she will share the stage with a bishop-elect who will succeed her in January 2020.
“In this partnership we have discovered reconciliation of the brokenness of years past, we have discerned our relevance as a diocese both locally and globally, and we know the experience of resurrection,” said Gray-Reeves. “We have learned the rhythm of dying and rising and followed it into new life. We have loved and argued, laughed and cried.”
“Each year we have grown in knowledge, courage and experience in becoming the church that does not yet exist,” she noted. “Having spent a year pondering identity . . . it is time to step out a little more boldly with our beautiful Episcopal self.”
“We are the shelter that we long for”
“The Spirit of God is moving through this diocese with compassion, creativity, and courage,” said Curator for Emerging Communities Kelsey Davis, who preached Friday at Evening Prayer before the convention banquet and awards.
Davis asked the assembled crowd to open their hearts and practice the courage it takes to lean into the people and places they might otherwise pass by. She recalled a favorite Irish saying, “It is the shelter of each other that the people live,” and added that “we are the shelter that we long for. The offering of our presence is offering a place of sanctuary. And as we move deeper into the world, getting outside our buildings and imagine new ways of being church, this is very Good News for us.”
Citing Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan in Luke, she said the “moment between seeing and moving towards suffering is a courageous one . . . but when we see each other through the eyes of love, and when we care more about the goodness inherit inside each of us, rather than any other narrative society gives to us . . . this is when we are capable of mustering the courage.”
Her sermon also referenced Henri Nouwen, who talks about “the movement from hostility to hospitality as one of the great movements of the spiritual life.” Davis’ entire sermon can be read here.