Saturday, June 27, 2009

when PB doesn't mean peanut butter

Somehow or other I didn't get to mentioning this earlier in the week (guess it didn't quite fit in with the posts), but our Presiding Bishop is in town this weekend! Katharine Jefferts Schori is a remarkable woman and bishop. Called to the vocation of priest several years after receiving her PhD in oceanography, she served as priest in Oregon before being elected bishop of Nevada in 2001. She was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006 at our last General Convention. She speaks Spanish fluently and is an instrument rated pilot. Does all of that seem a bit right-brained? She has an incredible gift for pastoral leadership, is an astute listener, gentle in speech, full of compassion and mercy. She knows her bible and grasps fully the nuances and complexities of faith. And she doesn't flinch. Did I mention that she is amazing?

She is in town this weekend at the invitation of our bishop to help one of our congregations, St. Ann's, celebrate it's 150th anniversary year. The diocese gathered last night for Eucharist and a reception to honor the PB, and she spent a couple of hours with the clergy beforehand as a way for us to have access to her, to ask questions and speak our minds.


There was a good turnout of clergy, but I confess that I was disappointed with my colleagues. Do they not pay any attention? Do they not listen or read? Most of the questions asked were the obvious, well-worn (nay, exhausted!) questions of interviewers. The same stuff that appears in every article: being the first female PB and Primate in the Anglican Communion; the intersection of science and faith; her "liberal" theology, blah blah blah. To her credit Bishop Katharine (as she is called) replied to each question as though it were new to her, and honored each person's question with patience and directness. But oh, what a lost opportunity! I confess I had no questions prepared. Of late my own life has been so consuming that I haven't given much thought to the quandaries of the Church. Fortunately a handful of questions did offer the opportunity for her to head in new directions, directions that weren't about her but about the Church, faith, and mission. She has a heart for mission, and in her sermon last evening she invited and challenged us to be more attentive to that aspect of the Church's life. (She used a great phrase: the ministry of interruption, noting that we, as humans, could take a cue from the Holy Spirit's practice of interrupting us!)

As a Church, nationally, we are blessed beyond measure with Bishop Katharine's leadership. It saddens me at the same time that her extraordinary gifts can't be experienced more directly--a reflection of the paucity of those gifts among our leadership in the Church and in the world. I can only pray that as she leads us during her tenure as PB those who do come in contact with her will take note and make an effort to listen, to watch, to be moved to action so that we might, as she suggests we are able, change the world.

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5 comments:

Mary Beth said...

I have never met her but she is my hero in so many ways! I agree with you about her gifts and promise for the future of our church.

Mary Beth said...

ps, sorry to take up all your comment space...but your header picture is delectable!!

Jayne said...

How neat that you got to meet her face to face and hear her views on various issues! I think she has been such a wonderful leader for the church, and look forward to her insight and vision further affecting how we move forward.

mompriest said...

You are so right - she is awesome! I have met her twice. Once at a conference of women clergy at Kanuga (North Carolina) and once when she was in Chicago (where I used to live) to consecrate the new bishop. On that occasion, like every one, she went to a small church that Sunday and Presided over the Eucharist and preached...and - baptized my Goddaughters. I have a picture of the two of us at the font....really incredible person and presence. I try to emmulate her calm being. (Of course I am not as good at it as she)...

kimquiltz said...

How exciting! I admire her also. I'd like to hear more about the ministry of interruption...

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