The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Encounter With the Presiding Bishop

A friend recently invited me to attend the eucharist at the
Episcopal Church Center this afternoon. The celebrant was Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The chapel is a small space, and the congregation was small--mostly people who work at the Center, and Bishop Katharine was clearly at home and comfortable. I was struck by two things during the service. The first was that, in distributing the Eucharist, Bishop Katharine clearly takes the sacrament very seriously. With each communicant, including me, she made eye contact, and shared the moment of communicating with respect and dignity. Second, in her short homily, she used the reading from 1 John 4--"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God"--to stress the need for openness amd humility in discerning the will of God for us. That which is comfortable, which reinforces our stereotypes and preconceptions--that is inherently suspect.

Remember that this was a sermon preached to a home crowd, her home crowd. She was in essence urging us to engage with those who disagree with us in love and in respect. She called upon all of us to seek Christ in each other, and to be exemplars of the Christ we love to all we meet.

She also displayed a wry sense of humor; in comparing Remigius (whose feast day is today) with St. Jerome (whose feast day was yesterday), she noted Remigius was appointed a bishop at age 22 and served for 90 years, adding (deadpan), "maybe for his sins." She also, by the way, compared the saint in their views on oratory, preferring Jerome's plain style, and avoidance of persuasion by stoking up emotions.

Afterwards, I was briefly introduced to the Presiding Bishop. She was warm, gracious and funny. It's always interesting to meet someone who is the subject of wildly varying accounts; I found myself liking Katharine Jefferts Schori, and heard the Christian message in her sermon.

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