Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Begins: The End is Near

There is probably not anything more un-Episcopalian than standing on a street corner proclaiming that the end is near. Unlike in some Christian circles, the end times is not a significant topic of conversation among us.  To be perfectly honest, I am not particularly unhappy about that fact.

Yet here we are at the beginning of Advent and, at least at the beginning of this season, we are asked to reflect on what we mean when we say "Christ will come again." I said yesterday at the Eucharist that we read "end time" texts from the Bible and assume the news they bring is bad.  Jesus is coming back and this time he's angry.  We say every week in the Nicene Creed, "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead..."  No matter which way you try to spin it, judgment sounds painful.  Do any of us not have aspects of our lives that will be judged harshly?  I suspect not.

When St. Paul considers this reality in the eighth chapter of Romans he realizes something very important.  He says

Who is to condemn?  It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?

His answer is, "Nothing."  The one who will be our judge is first our lover, the one who prays for us always, whose life was an offering which took in the life of the whole world.  Our judgment will result in our freedom. We have nothing of which to be afraid.

We sang a contemporary Advent hymn at the end of the late Service yesterday which can have the last word (the second verse):

Can it be that from our endings, new beginnings you create?
Life from death, and from our rendings, realms of wholeness generate?
Take our fears, then, Lord, and turn them into hopes for life anew:
Fading light and dying season sing their Glorias to you.
Dean W. Nelson (b. 1944) (from Wonder, Love and Praise, #721)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Takin' It To The Streets: Highlights From Our 80th Diocesan Convention

by John Clinton Bradley, Lay Delegate

Bishop Barbara Harris preaching from Two Saints' pulpit.
The 80th convention of the Diocese of Rochester took place on November 11-12. It began on Friday afternoon with a procession from the Hyatt to St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene. Our sanctuary was filled (overflowing into the balconies) for the convention Eucharist. The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in The Episcopal Church, preached--urging the church to re-vision itself as a movement rather than an institution.

Back at the Hyatt, we perused exhibits about ministries occurring in each of the six districts of the diocese. Our parish showed a Right On School display.

Later Friday evening, delegates enjoyed an informal dinner with entertainment provided by each district. The Rochester district was well represented by Harmonically Yours from St. Stephen's.

Formal business sessions were conducted on Saturday. We cast ballots for several offices. The Rev. Mary Ann Brody was elected to the Disciplinary Board.

We also voted on ten resolutions. Dr. Marilyn Wienk, chair of the Public Policy Committee, introduced Resolution G, which called for the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. The resolution was initially defeated, but was later reconsidered and amended to call for a withdrawal of troops as soon as possible. The amended resolution passed.

Bishop Prince Singh gave his annual "state of the diocese" address--calling for us to become "authentic spiritual activists."

Chris Cleveland, vice-chair of Diocesan Council, presented the report of council. The proposed 2012 diocesan budget proved to be somewhat controversial. Several delegates expressed concern about how the decision was made to eliminate the diocesan youth missioner position. A significant minority of no votes were voiced to the budget.

Two task forces are working on crucial diocesan financial concerns. The first is addressing the apportionment formula by which parishes financially support the diocese. The second is evaluating the supplemental health insurance benefit the diocese provides to retired clergy and their spouses.

The rector was appointed to three committees for the coming year--Nominations, Constitution & Canons, and Resolutions. He will chair the Resolutions Committee.

My modest contribution to convention was to edit a video of greetings from other bishops--including Bill Burrill, Jack McKelvey, Gayle Harris, and Steve Lane. Most of the clips in it were shot by Bishop Prince Singh on his iPhone while attending the House of Bishops meeting in Quito, Ecuador, last September.

It has been my privilege to serve as one of your lay delegates to convention during the past three years. (Our other two lay delegates are Sharon Nelson and Walt Kannapel.) I am not standing for re-election because I believe that other members of our parish should have the opportunity to take part in regional assemblies and diocesan convention. I encourage you to consider offering yourself for this post.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Greetings to Our 80th Convention

John Clinton Bradley edited this video for diocesan convention. Most of the clips in it were shot by Bishop Prince Singh on his iPhone while attending the House of Bishops meeting in Quito, Ecuador, last September.