The Episcopal Church in the United States has held the first of six “Revivals” being planned with diocesan teams in different cities around the country and the world this year and in 2018. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry addressed the first weekend gathering, in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Bishop Curry said his prayer for that - and subsequent “Revivals” - was that they will be the beginning of “a way of new life for us as this wonderful Episcopal Church, bearing witness to the love of God in Jesus in this culture and in this particular time in our national history.” The emphasis of the gathering was on both sparking individuals’ faith lives and a commitment to express faith beyond the four walls of their churches. Pittsburgh Episcopalians were encouraged to bring with them neighbours who were not part of a faith community.
Three “Revivals” will take place later this year – in the Diocese of West Missouri, the Diocese of Georgia and the Diocese of San Joaquin (California). Then next year there will be a “Revival” in the Diocese of Honduras and then the programme concludes in July of 2018 with a Joint Evangelism Mission with the Church of England. The six “Revivals” will vary in design, but most will take place over a weekend and feature dynamic worship and preaching, offerings from local artists and musicians, personal testimony and storytelling, speakers, invitations to local social action, engagement with young leaders, and outreach with people who aren’t active church goers.
Addressing the Pittsburgh meeting, Bishop Curry called on Episcopalians to help heal the world’s divides. He said the revival of the church is not about a church rejuvenated for its own sake; the church’s revival, he said, must spill God’s love out into the world “until justice rolls down like a mighty stream.”
A key theme in Bishop Curry’s sermons over the weekend was reconciliation: “God is calling Christians to a deep and radical sense of repentance” he said. The world needed such a manifestation of Christianity, he contended, because it would lead to a desperately needed reconciliation among a litany of ethnic groups and even among “red folk and blue folk,” referring to the nation’s political divisions. Finding ways for Republicans and Democrats to discover common ground echoed through Bishop Curry’s sermons.
Saying that the “way of love can save us all,” Bishop Curry asked the congregation to imagine how legislatures, corporate board rooms, schools and health care in America would be different if they were approached “not by what I can get out of it but how it serves the common good.”
“We are talking about a revolution of values,” he said. “Revival means to give life; it’s resurrection. Imagine our country, imagine what we would say to the immigrant and refugee, imagine what American would say to the rest of the world, imagine what the rest of the world would say to us if that way of love became our way.”
In a news conference, Bishop Curry said a “Revival” must work towards something lasting:
“It is about claiming new and authentic and genuine life. That’s true for our nation, true for our world. We must find better ways to live together, to care for each other, to care for our society and to care for our global communities,” he said. “We who are followers of Jesus believe that the way of love and the way of Jesus is the key to doing that. But, we join hands with people of other faiths and people of goodwill – anyone who wants to help us end what so often is a nightmare of poverty and injustice and bigotry and wrong and violence, and realise God’s dream of true harmony and peace and justice for everybody.”
During the weekend Episcopalians and others from across the diocese also took part in a conversation billed as “Bridging Divides and Healing Communities;” it was aimed at beginning to form relationships among individuals and churches in hopes that they can work together to address hopelessness, poverty and addiction in local communities.
Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto, praised the Episcopal Church’s efforts to build bridges across the city’s divided neighbourhoods. He said that Pittsburgh was a divided community needing this sort of training in conversation to cultivate leaders who could step in during emergencies and try to move people into productive ways of acting. “Pulling a community together only happens with things like this,” he said. “You have to be pro-active; you can’t wait until something happens. It’s taking these actions that will help build those bridges that we speak about.”
The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation, is organising the “Revivals” and will return to the dioceses afterwards to work with Episcopalians to cultivate a group of leaders who have new abilities, new relationships and a new common purpose to further enact Jesus’ love in their communities.
The planning for each “Revival” begins with asking local diocesan members what the good news of Jesus looks like in their communities. For instance, Pittsburgh Episcopalians discerned that the good news would help them cross the divides of their area, build relationships with neighbours of different traditions and start reconciling with each other.
“Hopefully, Pittsburgh – not just the diocese but the city and surrounding communities – will look different. And they’ll feel like there was a church that showed up, not only to talk about good news but to be good news,” she said, describing the hoped-for outcome.