Saturday, June 17, 2006

Eucharist with Bishop Gene Robinson

Last night, Demetrius and I attended the Integrity Eucharist at which Bishop Gene Robinson was preaching. I recorded Gene's sermon--which was quite moving--and am getting ready to transcribe it so that those were were not in attendance can read it. I've done a lot of transcripts of interviews and sermons of various people over the past year or so, and people always thank me, expressing amazement that I would go to that kind of effort. The truth is, transcripts are easy when compared to the challenge of getting my own reflections down on paper (or disk, or computer screen...).

So, I have begun to transcribe Gene's sermon, and I promise that I *will* get it online soon.  But it seemed appropriate to at least *attempt* to say something about *why* this is so meaningful to me.

As I mentioned when I first started writing about convention, I officially joined the Episcopal church shortly after the last convention. I was already a member of a local progressive Episcopal church, and no further action was required on my part. But as I learned more about the elevation of Bishop Gene Robinson and the fallout from that action, I became convinced that I needed to say "Yes!" to the Episcopal Church in some tangible, measurable way. Or, simply put, if the church was going to *lose* some people over doing the right thing, then they bloody well should be gaining some members too.

I think much of the reason I have found it hard to put something into words about Bishop Gene Robinson is that, in the really important things, my sense of "knowing" doesn't come in words, but in feelings. But those feelings, when I have them, are unmistakable, and I've learned not to discount them. (If you're familiar with the Myers-Briggs, I probably don't even need to tell you this, but I'm an INFP.)

The first thing that caused me to feel a connection to Gene Robinson was reading this web page with his answers to questions such as "Describe three contemporary saints who have influenced your ministry." I couldn't help but feel moved when I read this:

Third, Mister Rogers. I know. He's not real. (Neither are several of the traditional saints we love and celebrate!) But he is very like the real life, ordained Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, who created and for many years played him on the famous TV show for children. This TV saint, in his cardigan sweater and blue tennis shoes, was not afraid of looking like a nerd or playing in a sandbox ("unless you become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven"). Everything he said and did was an expression of the baptismal promise to "respect the dignity of every human person." For those not yet "too cool" to watch, Mister Rogers went about his neighborhood, rejoicing in its diverse races, ages, cultures and personalities, affirming each person and their unique gifts (including the four- and five year olds who were watching), asking the ultimate Good Samaritan question: "Won't you be my neighbor?" Not a bad role model for a bishop!
In the post below this one, you can see why Gene's mention of Fred Rogers in his response would resonate with me.

From the transcript of his interview on Larry King the other night.

KING: Why did you want to be a bishop, Bishop Robinson?

ROBINSON: Actually, at first, I didn't want to be a bishop. God had to chase me for quite a long time before I would say yes. I knew this would be controversial and yet sometimes God asks us to do things that are hard. And in my prayer life, what I discovered was that God was promising to be faithful to me as God had always been faithful to me in my life and would stand by me during this very difficult time if I would just struggle and strive to listen to and for his voice.
My gosh, does that ever resonate for me! Except he's so much better at putting it into pretty words than I am. The best I've been able to come up with is God's Clues.

Anyway, I'm really glad I was able to make it to the Integrity Eucharist to hear Gene Robinson preach yesterday. I am thankful to my husband, who, as I have mentioned, is not especially religious, for agreeing to spend date night (it's been ages since we've had a respite provider lined up) going to church with me. The event was so crowded that we ended up in the overflow room downstairs from the church. At first, the sound wasn't working, but thankfully that was fixed before it came time for Gene's sermon.

It was a delightful surprise when Bishop Gene Robinson came down to the basement to distribute Communion to the overflow crowd. There was something just, well, cool about receiving Holy Communion from the man who is a big part of the reason I am an Episcopalian today.

I wasn't sure if I was going to have another opportunity to speak with him. So, when I was accepting the host, right after I said "Amen", I squeezed his hand and said "Thank you." He said, "You're welcome", but I'm sure he had no idea why I was thanking him.

This post was my attempt to explain why.

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