The Integrity Eucharist

Philadelphia: Friday, 18 July 97

Dear Friends,

As I wrote yesterday, I will describe the Integrity Eucharist, held at the lovely Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany night before last. The weather then, as now, was oppressively hot and humid. The church is within walking distance through the steamy thick air, and it is not air conditioned when you arrive. The Integrity Eucharist was packed. People of all persuasions and sizes made the journey to the Church, most to stand in solidarity but many also out of curiosity: to see, personally, what all these gay folks are up to. Worship happened. Hot sweaty happy traditional worship happened. Dr. Louie Crew read the Word clearly and beautifully like the fine professor of English that he is... But the true glory of the evening service was shared by +Ed Browning, our Presiding Bishop, as Celebrant of the Holy Eucharist, and to the remarkable preaching of the Rev. Canon Elizabeth M. C. Kaeton, the Director of Oasis Ministries in the Diocese of Newark.

Elizabeth+ began her sermon by singing, with real talent, some snippets from the old justice hymn _Keep On Walking Forward_: "gonna keep on walking forward.... never turning back..." Her sermon grew in intensity, the cadences rises and falling; the music of her address much like the call-and-response of an African-American spiritual.

What did she say? Well, in short, that God is good; God is Love; that perfect love casts out fear.... etc. Are you surprised? No...? Well, she said many many things, but what came through loudest was her prophetic call to witness to the truth of our own lives as children of God, to persevere in the face of injustice. She described how, at home, in pondering the tremendous assignment of addressing this congregation (for Integrity Eucharists, particularly at GC, have become famous for the excellence of their preaching and of their liturgy) she repeatedly prayed to God for a Word --for the Word which God would give her to send out to the people.

Over and over, in answer to her increasingly worried prayers, came the answer: reclaim the power of the Erotic. "No--no..." said Elizabeth+--"surely that is not what I must say." But over and over, the same certainty of message came in the stillness of her 1st, 2nd, and 3rd drafts-littered office. Lest there be misunderstanding among us, the power of the erotic referred to does no mean sybaritic license or carnality--NO--the reclaiming of our full persons and personalities as ones whom God loves; a God who wishes us joy and fidelity and abundance of life not lonly in our "heads" or hearts--but in our bodies as made by God as well. The apparent dualist split still persists among we 'Western' types.... it seems....

The Gospel was John 21: 15-17, wherein Simon Peter is repeatedly asked by the Lord Jesus, "Do you love me?"--and when Peter responds, over and over again, Jesus responds with the commands of the reality of Godly Love: "Feed my lambs." "Tend my sheep." "Feed my sheep." "We are strengthened and renewed because we know, as Christians, that Jesus loves us". Kaeton reminded us all that Jesus even loved Judas. He loves us all, holding out redemption, hope, and courage. She spoke ruefully, humorously : "We are all tired of hearings..." "...but LISTENING precedes hearing.... We _know_ we are loved--it is time to stop asking 'do you love me' of the Church, and pick up our crosses... and 'keep on walking' in faith and courage..."

I cannot duplicate that charismatic experience here in the written word. The night was full of emotional power, sharing of mission, the Bread and the Wine, the charisma of the Holy Spirit, of music and incense and joy. Elizabeth+'s sermon is available on audiotape from Christianity for the Third Milennium [CTM], a non-profit organization in the Diocese of Newark, and I assume through Oasis Ministries (contact information at the end of this message).

There were 4 spontaneous standing ovations for +Ed Browning, who noted in brief personal remarks that he had been unable to participate in the Integrity Eucharist at the last General Convention, and had been especially sorry about this--because he had heard that the preaching was always particularly wonderful. "So," he said, "I was not about to miss it this year. The congregation appoved.

Contact Information for The Oasis:

    The Oasis
    Diocese of Newark
    31 Mulberry Street
    Newark, NY, 07102

Copyright © 97 Deborah Griffin Bly.
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