As part of my responsibilities as the United Thank Offering representative for my diocese, I attended the 48th Annual Convention of the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast from Thursday, February 14 to Saturday, February 16. My incredibly patient and understanding spouse did not bat an eye when I told him the dates of the convention fell on Valentine’s Day.


It was a wonderful, Spirit-filled weekend with people I know from Episcopal communities throughout my diocese. Our theme for this year is "Life Together." To be honest, I cannot chose just one part of this convention that encapsulates all I’d experienced. As a diverse group we worshiped, had conversation, made decisions, ate well, and danced { yes!} together.
My rector asked me what one thought I could take back from this year’s convention and I told her - in a nutshell - that I experienced a taste of what God’s plan for humanity can be and eventually shall be.


This weekend I, and hopefully others, caught a glimpse of what life together would be like in a spirit to true shalom. Humanity, as seen at the convention is beautiful at our core. After all, we were the "earth creatures whom God created in God’s own Image."


Again I am reminded of what St. Paul told the Corinthians in Chapter 13 of his first epistle: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”


Doing life together cannot happen without LOVE. When people are in a community that is full of this radical Love of Christ, human-made boundaries melt away. Radical LOVE leads to radical inclusion.  Love was tangible at this convention, and I came away with a renewed hope in humanity.


Stories were shared by laypeople from the pulpit that spoke of the radical love, acceptance and inclusion that they’ve experienced in their Episcopal parishes. People who were scared to share their stories, and people who were afraid to let people in on knowing them fully spoke of the affirming assurance of God’s love that they found in the Episcopal Church. Rather than feeling sad that there are some Christian traditions that restrict or reject people-of-color, women, or LGBTQ persons, I am joyful that many of these people find their way to the Episcopal Church in my diocese.


On Friday afternoon, we ended the business session and program with a sung Compline experience. I sat still {really, I sat still!} for that time and let the music be a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to work Her Will in me. As the music played and the choir chanted, I visualized taking all of the ”stuff” that impeded our journey to transformation and setting it in a big box. I then visualized slamming the lid shut and walking away. When the musical prayers ceased and the lights returned to the nave, I honestly felt a renewed sense of purpose - and that a load had been lifted from my shoulders.


We were asked what first brought us to an Episcopal Church. For me, it is the liturgy. My father’s family is Roman Catholic, and the rich traditions of that part of the Jesus Movement spoke to my soul in a tangible way. I came for the sacraments and the traditional liturgy. I stayed and became transformed by the radical love of my siblings-in-Christ. The journey has not always been easy, but it is worth all the hassle in order to do life together with my parish and my diocese.


Amen


Sarah McCarren
 

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EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF THE CENTRAL GULF COAST

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