Last night we welcomed our new Bishop, Poulson Reed, to Emmanuel. Because it was the first night of Fall Break for schools I was worried that the turnout would be small. I was wrong. We had a solid 45 minute line of cars to meet the Bishop and receive a “drive by blessing,” Afterwards the Vestry, Clergy and Staff joined the Bishop for a blessing of the new building. I wish we all could have joined him, but the present rules limited the size of the gathering.
Of the many small stories from last night, one sticks out. Some new members of our parish were waiting in the car line to greet Bishop Poulson and when their daughter saw Bishop Poulson waiting to greet them she said, “It’s the king!” Later her parents said they were impressed that he took the time to talk to everyone, even their very young daughter. Childhood memory is a powerful thing and I imagine this could be something she remembers for a long time. There are worse things to remember than your parents taking the time to wait on a gravel driveway to greet a new bishop and receive a blessing.
This moment sticks in my head because it reminded me of something that happened when my family and I were brand new Episcopalians. A big part of the reason we were unhappy with our old denomination was the way women were limited in that fellowship. Before we had a daughter it seemed okay to take the long view and work for change. Once we had Bella our perspective changed. Bella was very young but she was already picking up on their attitudes towards women. For example, when she was 2 years old she told me one Wednesday night on the way home from church that she had learned, “girls can’t be president.”
On her first Sunday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa, Bella saw the beautiful building and she said, “Is this a castle?” That morning Mother Kristi Maulden was presiding at the Eucharist. When Mother Kristi got in line to process in at the beginning of the service wearing her vestments Bella looked at her and said, “Look mom, that must be the queen.” The impression she had of a woman in an Episcopal Church exercising Christian leadership instantly contrasted in my brain with the culture of our previous churches.
I hope our parish provides a positive stark contrast for people in their expectations and experiences of church. This takes constant effort and humility. It requires us to constantly reach out and talk to people outside of our comfort zone. I fail everyday in this goal. True fellowship and agape (self-sacrificial) love is difficult. This is why it is so difficult to find. But, occasionally we find ourselves getting a little bit close, and those moments are special.
See you in church or online,
Fr. Tom +