Our Diocesan Convention is right around the corner so this is your pre-convention potpourri blog post. But first, I’d like to address the needs of our brothers and sisters in Haiti who are trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Matthew. Sometimes these disasters can seem so far removed from us but, with the advent of the information age, we have immediate access to news and images that bring this much closer to home. I watched a video the other day that chronicled only five minutes of the storm and storm surge which destroyed much of a city while I watched. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the people of this tiny nation to face the aftermath of this tragedy. We can help! Episcopal Public Policy Network has a link for making contributions to the relief effort – http://www.episcopalrelief.org/hurricane-matthew-response
And here’s a link for bulletin inserts for your congregation for this Sunday – http://www.episcopalrelief.org/church-in-action/worship-resources/bulletin-inserts
Now, on to Convention! Some of you might be asking, “Why should I read about Diocesan Convention if I am not a delegate for my congregation?” The answer is simple – Convention is for all of us! When I first became part of the Diocese after moving to Michigan in 2002, all I heard about Convention convinced me that I didn’t really want to attend. Some “friends” made the business meeting sound so boring. Well, I am so glad that I got over that attitude quickly! For me, now, Convention combines some of the best aspects of a retreat experience (Spirit-filled worship and learning) with the happy atmosphere of a family reunion! This is OUR Household and we are all participants in God’s work for the Michigan division of the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement!! So…if you have a couple of hours or a couple of days, join us so we can get to know you better, too. Maybe knowing what to expect will convince you to come.
This year, our work of Convention will be centered on our discussions of “Who is My Neighbor?” and these conversations are relevant for all of us. In fact, when it comes down to it, even our resolutions are a way of addressing that question since they come from our desire to live into our Baptismal Covenant. The originators of each resolution feel passionate about the actions that they bring to us because these actions impact the lives of our neighbors in our communities and our world. If you haven’t attended before, witnessing the brief legislative session will provide you with a basic understanding of how some decisions are made not only for our lives within the Diocese but also for those “neighbors” at a distance.
So, what will you find if you come? At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, the Detroit Regional Interfaith Voice for Equity (DRIVE) will lead a workshop called: “Congregation – Centered Community Organizing: Strengthening our Community Ministries.” During this time, we will reflect on ways to affect equity in the job market, education, public transit and mental health care in our church communities. All we have to do is look around our communities to see the need for new opportunities that can demonstrate our love for one another.
At 4:00, the opening business meeting begins where you can meet a whole group of new friends: the new clergy in the diocese, the dean for your deanery, the candidates for office and the Bishop’s staff.
The Pre-banquet Reception begins at 5:30, which is a great time to wander through the exhibit area, enjoy some hors d’oeuvres, buy a special gift from one of our vendors, gather information about some of the Diocese’s ministries and chat with friends. You can also sign a very important letter for your Members of Congress asking for new strategies to bring peace in the Holy Land (keep reading and you’ll find more about this below). This is also a good time for you to “Meet the Candidates” and find out how they plan to serve the diocese if elected.
Dinner is served at 6:15 and will be followed by our Convention Eucharist. For me, coming from a small congregation, worshiping with my diocesan brothers and sisters is always very special. If you haven’t been to a diocesan Eucharist, do try to attend; you will feel the Spirit’s presence for sure! Friday wraps up with the “Friends of Emrich” reception for fun and fellowship with friends – light refreshments, cash bar and raffles, too!
Saturday begins with Morning Prayer at the beginning of our business session. As we continue the discussion of “Who is My Neighbor?”, we’ll hear from Dr. Ivy Forsythe Brown who led our wonderful workshop last year; we’ll be challenged by a presentation by Visions Inc, one of the foremost diversity and inclusion training consultant organizations; we’ll learn from some of our diocesan social service agencies; and we’ll be treated to a presentation by YAYA’s participants in Mission Possible: Detroit 2016. And, of course, we will address the resolutions that have been presented to the Household.
Now, for that letter I mentioned earlier. We all know how much unrest and tension continues in the Middle East. One of our diocesan friends has asked that Convention send a letter to Congress requesting that they consider anew the actions of the United States in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Bishop Gibbs took this idea one step further and suggested that we send in lots of letters to our elected representatives. Letters from 100+ people will have a far greater impact than one letter from a body of people! I realize that we may not all hold the same opinion on this issue so this is a pressure-free request. For those of you who do share in these concerns, look for the table in the exhibit hall that has the letters. Once you sign yours, the Diocese will mail them to Washington for you. How easy is this?! Here’s the body of the letter so you can be prepared to sign yours at Convention:
Dear Member of Congress:
I am writing to suggest that the United States needs to take a firmer stand on issues related to peace between Palestinians and Israel. Our country’s lack of firmness in opposing Israeli expansionism has stalled the Oslo Peace Process and compromises the prospect for peace in this part of the world, Israel’s own security interests, and our claim to be an “honest broker” for Middle East peace. We need to reclaim that ground.
As a matter of international law, Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem are illegal, forbidden by the Fourth Geneva Convention. Thus, from the standpoint of international law, the initial negotiating position must be that Israel will remove the settlements. If Israel will not do that, that refusal must bring a concession of some sort in the final agreement.
Additionally, the final agreement must ensure Israel’s right to, and security in, all her pre-1967 territory. The agreement must also address the “right of return” of Palestinians displaced during Israel’s foundation. Perhaps some form of “principled compensation” may be an appropriate substitute for these refugees’ return to their former homes in Israel. The United States – and, indeed, the rest of the world – could be helpful in bearing this financial burden.
Only the peaceful settling of all issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will ensure Israel’s future security. Israel’s and the Palestinian Authority’s intransigence does not help this troubled region reach its security goals. The United States needs to reclaim its position as an honest broker to move the peace process forward.
This letter-writing campaign fits in nicely with the intention of the “resolves” from Resolution C018: Pursue Justice, Peace and Security in the Holy Land:
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Occupied Territories; and be it further
Resolved, That the Convention affirm the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education, and pastoral care; and be it further
Resolved, That the Convention affirm the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, non-violence training, and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians; and be it further
Resolved, That the Convention urge Episcopalians to demonstrate our solidarity by making pilgrimage to Israel and the Occupied Territories and learning from our fellow Christians in the region; and be it further
Resolved, That the Convention request the Program, Budget and Finance Committee consider allocating $15,000 during the next triennium for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society to produce a video and study guide based on the experiences and learnings of pilgrims to the region and Christians living in the region, to be distributed to the Episcopal Church.
Have I convinced you? I do hope so; I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!! And I look forward to seeing you there.
Let us pray –
Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in Lansing for the renewal and mission of your Church.
Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee