Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015.09.12 Plus Audrey

Yesterday we were at the consecration of the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, the Rev. Canon Dr. Audrey Cady Scanlon, now the Rt. Rev. Audrey Cady Scanlan.

Doesn't your name get changed in some way, like Sarai to Sarah, when something God-driven happens to you with your consent?? Yes, the Bible tells us. 

Still, Audrey is, and will always be, Audrey, even with her fancy new titles of office and the option, should she so choose it, to put a + before, rather than after, her name. She is +Audrey now. She is the 1089th bishop to be consecrated in the American succession of bishops since Samuel Seabury in 1784. This consecration happens to be the last one over which Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will preside. There were three women bishops all in the front row—an unusual and welcome sight. The joke going around the loopy church loop is: There's a woman in the house! (the House of Bishops, that is:) Here is the latest addition in full vestal array. This is dress-up to die for. Elegant.

I thought of Psalm 29, which I'd read earlier this morning. It's a prayer full of praise for the divine face and voice, powerful enough to shatter cedars and convulse the wilderness. And inside?
                       "And inside the holy sanctuary, everything proclaims your glory."

Like all events of moment there is always an emotional blend of joy and sorrow running neck and neck. The sermon, delivered by the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas of Connecticut, warned the gathered Church not to let itself and its mission take precedence over the primacy of God's mission, already ongoing in the world. The Church is called to participate in the Mission of God, a context of more depth, breadth, and value than the Mission of the Church. It was an excellent and true warning—for tomorrow.

But today, the Church liturgical/mystical dressed itself up for grandeur and glory: God's first of course, and then that of the beloved community of humble happy humans gathered—church panoply at its best, in song, symbol, full voice, and soul! Were there a thousand people there? I don't know but I felt small and insignificant, and also huge and important at the same time.

This event was personally exciting for both me and Dick. Audrey had been a member and Director of Christian Formation at my home parish in Collinsville, Connecticut, where Dick was the rector. In time, she was graduated from the seminary I'd graduated from. Dick was a mentor for Audrey in many ways and she invited him to be one of her presenters at the consecration.

Also, Audrey's consecration took place in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, where Dick grew up. He was a boy chorister at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Harrisburg where on Sunday September 13th, Audrey was seated. She now could add a big chair (cathedra) to her symbols of office. The cathedral did it up big with a brass ensemble blasting more glory than seemed tolerable, at least for an introvert like me. But Audrey was calm, full of good humor, and gave a fine homily including a phrase I loved She referred to the Church as "God's vehicle of institutional grace."  Imagine redeeming institutions from the bad-word category in one fell swoop.

You know when the church at worship gets going it's like heavenly glitter—out of control. It flies everywhere, touches everyone and sticks.  No one escapes its glow. Frankly, I think that the Church's job is, yes, to join God's mission of peace and justice in the world, but most centrally, to worship, pray and sing in order to help people remember that there is God.

Besides all the grandeur and uplift, I  learned something small and wonderful as I watched the woman who signed for the deaf people. The word for HOLY in sign language is this: the right palm sweeps over the left palm lightly and swoops off into the air like a dove. Three times for the grand old hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy."  It was a silent symphony.

Sunday afternoon we visited the graves of Dick's mother and father. There it was silent, save perhaps for angel songs we could only hear with the ears of our hearts.

For now I am overchurched.