Reflections from the General Seminary booth and a first time visitor to General Convention

The Rev. Alison Turner, ‘18

‘If you feel p-p-peckish,

p-p-pick up a penguin….’

 

Many current students and Alum of General Seminary, as well as friends, old and new, did just that as they visited the booth for their ‘ Welcome home’ conversations and ‘take away’ gifts for all the senses. 

Anyone coming to the General Convention Exhibition Hall however, knew that the reason for being there in Austin, Texas went far deeper than the trivia on the side of penguin bars, for indeed the hall represented the breadth, length, height and depth of what it is to be an Episcopalian.

Education, Formation, Communities, Pilgrimage, Charities, Worship, and Social Justice were some of the many concepts represented around the Convention Center, and yet the overriding theme of the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church could not be missed: a call to share in Jesus’ Loving, Liberating, Life-giving way.

The call to accept Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s invitation to join in “The Way of Love” was repeated and lived wherever we went during the days of Convention: in the debates, in the conversations in the streets in Austin, to and from the events, with otherwise complete strangers, in listening liturgies and the power of naming hurts within and beyond the church. It was seen in the solidarity of those standing in prayer for families affected by gun violence, and gathering in vigil for the multitude of children separated from their parents at migrant detention centers across Texas. Each element was a powerful witness, and an inspiration for the possibilities of living—truly living—a life of Love.

One unexpected and moving aspect of Convention that I soon discovered was the sheer scale of the gatherings and the richness of worship under the big umbrella of Episcopalianism. This richness included liturgies reflecting the diversity of the Provinces, with translations shared from across the church in word, sign and music. Amidst the familiar patterns of prayer and worship, many experienced the preachers’ commendation to renew our practice in a Jesus-centered life, as Bishop Curry proclaimed at the Saturday night Revival service “to come… commit to Jesus quietly in our hearts… then live that commitment loudly in our lives.”

The sense of witnessing church history in the making was palpable. Each day at General Convention represented the fruits of multiple hours of both Diocesan and National teams preparing for and creating the flow for the conference. Hundreds of volunteers from local parishes and beyond also played their part in extending hospitality, filled with food, fun and fellowship for the period of our stay. We certainly received a hearty and unforgettable Texas welcome and were inspired to depart, not only in peace, but with an undoubted sense of commission to “GO: Cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus.”