For at least the past two weeks I have been trying to do a blog post. I won’t describe here the number of things in Liz’s and my life – some serious and some trivial – that have claimed my attention. For now I want to talk about an event we attended this past Wednesday – the 172nd Convocation of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. We went primarily because the address was given by Katharine Jefferts Schori and I’ll say something about her in a moment.
There is an excellent four minute video clip of a few highlights of the service, including some of Bp. Katharine’s remarks, here.
My connection to Union is through Liz – she is an alum, as were her father, her uncle and her brother. I’m simply a spouse and a neighbor. Union is in our neighborhood and there were quite a few Morningside Gardens neighbors at the event – we were greeted at the door by Marie, who is on the steering committee of the new Metropolitan Friends of Union. Then we saw Kevin, who is on the staff at Union. Inside the chapel we saw Bob, who is both a neighbor and a retired professor at Union, Jim, who retired from the staff at Union last year, Sarah from our building and Tom who also has an apartment in our building but currently does not live there full time.
There were also a number of current and former St. Mary’s folks there – David Callard, the current chair of Union’s board attended St. Mary’s several years ago. Jim Morton is a trustee and a current member of St. Mary’s. We also saw Emily, whom we are sponsoring for ordination, and Charlotte, who used to be at St. Mary’s and is now at St. Michael’s (from which we spun off in 1823.) Earl, Elizabeth, and Sarah (our rector, his wife, and one of their daughters who happens to be a student at Union) were also there. We also saw Ethan, of FOR, a friend of but not a member of St. Mary’s. Finally, there was Miguel, who as a member of Bishop Katharine’s staff, was on duty.
As the video clip shows, the scripture reading was Isaiah 61: 1 - 9. After the recital of the passage by two students, Bishop Katharine told us that this was the text she chose when she had to select a passage for her first seminary course – one in methods of exegesis. She said she picked the passage because it sums up what God wants. It is, of course, the passage that Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth. To Bishop Katharine, the passage reminds us of “God’s overwhelming yearning for a healed world.” She said the dream of Isaiah is global, but also local. “We have to be both prophet and priest.” Our task is to look for woundedness, even within ourselves, and work to bind up the wounds of all the world.
Union is of course a “liberal” seminary, and I’m sure many on the conservative side would find Bishop Katharine’s address, indeed the whole Convocation, lacking and “not Christian.” On the other hand, I and many others found it inspiring. Although it was addressed in particular to seminary students and faculty, it spoke to all of us there. A United Methodist minister friend remarked afterwards, “Your Presiding Bishop could almost make me an Episcopalian.”
At the reception I had a chance to speak briefly with Bishop Katharine. I deliberately refrained from mentioning any of the things on her plate. Instead I told her I was a member of St. Mary’s and that Miguel, a member of her staff, is one of our parishioners. We also spoke about missing the wildness of the country while living in New York and I described a touch of country (although not wildness) that Liz and I had recently experienced on Morningside Drive, about three blocks away from where we were standing in Union’s Social Hall. On the sidewalk, just next to both the park and a school, we saw a chicken. We know there is a wild turkey in the park, but a chicken is an unusual sight in New York City. It was nice to chat with her about nothing.
To conclude, now that I’ve heard her in person and even spoken to her, I’m still glad that TEC has KJS for PB.
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