Thursday, April 21, 2011

Presiding Bishop

The Heartbeat of GodOn Tuesday, I attended a service at St. Stephen’s, Wilkinsburg. The service was billed as “Holy Eucharist, Reaffirmation of Ordination Vows, and The Blessing of Oils.” The preacher was Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Episcopalians seem to pride themselves that preaching is less important to them than for members of other churches, particularly those Evangelical, nondenominational churches drawing thousands of worshipers each week to hear their charismatic pastors. For Episcopalians, the Eucharist is the Sunday morning entrée, and the sermon is an accompaniment often more tolerated than savored.

Katharine, however, can hold her own with the best of preachers. Her sermon was closely tied to the Gospel reading for the day, though perhaps not in the most obvious way. She drew on her experiences throughout the church to make the Gospel relevant to our own day and to inspire us all—and particularly the clergy, her primary audience—to pursue Christ’s mission in the world with zeal. I thought her sermon was fabulous. Of course, being an Episcopalian, my standards may not be as high as they could be!

Anyway, if you get chance to hear our Presiding Bishop preach, do take advantage of it. Unfortunately, she likely will not again be in Pittsburgh until we consecrate our next bishop in 2012, and she may not preach even then.

Katharine is the author of a number of books, however, and their chapters, in nearly all cases, I suspect, began as sermons. I certainly recommend them. Her latest book is The Heartbeat of God: Finding the Sacred in the Middle of Everything. Tuesday night at Trinity Cathedral, she was autographing copies of this book at the reception held in her honor. Since I had checked out the copy of the book in the St. Paul’s library, I took the opportunity to have it autographed, along with a copy I bought for myself. Having a copy of my own, I’ll be returning the parish copy to the library this evening. Consider checking it out yourself.

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