Passion and Activism

Yesterday, the whole Demmler family attended the prayer vigil at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, TX, which houses some of the mothers of the immigrant families that have been separated at the US-Mexico border. The organizers had hoped we would be close enough for the women inside to hear us praying for them but we were placed in an athletic field several hundred yards away. That didn't stop the 1,000 plus gathered from praying though. As we all know, the power of prayer is not limited by distance or location. We learned later that the women could see us through their windows and stayed plastered to those windows, watching the whole service until the last bus and car left. They communicated to the organizers that the women cried because they saw in our presence that they were not alone.

The organizers planned an excellent liturgy of music and prayer for us all. Both the President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop were present and helped to lead some of the prayers. Of course, the Presiding Bishop was asked to speak and he did so with his usual enthusiasm and passion for the Gospel. He challenged all present to recommit ourselves to loving all of our neighbors, including the immigrant, the prison guard, the democrat, the republican, the liberal, and the conservative neighbor. His message was one of universal love and rights as imbued by God the Creator.

Earlier in the morning, the group known as "Bishops Against Gun Violence" led a rally and short march through downtown Austin. They had as their guests and opening speakers the family of Carmen Schentrup, one of the seventeen victims of the shooting in February at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The Schentrup family joined both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops on Saturday and addressed both floors. They shared their story and asked the church to consider ways to combat gun violence.

Deputies frequently participate in rallies, vigils, marches, and protests during General Convention and individual Episcopalians often join in local and national marches and protests. For many of our brothers and sisters, this is a way they exercise their faith and show their passion for the Gospel. Undoubtedly, God calls us to seek justice for all of his creation. A ready opportunity for this is through social justice work and activism. While it can be interpreted as being political by observers, most Episcopalians would say their activism is not political but Christian.

But activism isn't for everyone, far from it, and we certainly don't all agree on the issues for which our brothers and sisters protest and march. As I say often, the only absolute in the Episcopal Church is that you can never say, "All Episcopalians." We are, proudly, a very diverse group of people; it is one of our greatest strengths and challenges. For every Episcopalian marching in protest, there are others who would never march or protest and disagrees with those who do.

Many Episcopalians, equally passionately, express their faith in community volunteering, nonprofit work, fundraising, feeding ministries, friendship, pastoral care, and more. There are as many ways of doing ministry as there are Episcopalians. Most, we can never say "all," exercise these ministries out of genuine love for Jesus Christ and his Gospels. What can be said is that Episcopalians are serious and earnest about living in the way of Christ by putting their boots to the ground and getting to work.

It is this work that changes the world. It is this work that helps bring refreshment to dried up souls and food to hungry bellies. It is this work that shines the light of Christ for others to warm themselves and find their calling to join us in the vineyard. We must all listen with open and humble hearts and armed with ready feet. We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged by the secular world or even one another. I am encouraged by the heart I see in Episcopalians all around me at General Convention and the passion with which they undertake the work before us.