Day One: Just as important as the work are the relationships

Bishops Doug Fisher and Alan Gates sharing the joy of a baseball game at Camden Yards (Photo: Bishop Fisher)

The 80th General Convention of the Episcopal Church begins this morning in Baltimore, MD. Each morning, Bishop Fisher will blog about the important deliberations of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. He will also be reflecting on the experience, the worship and the often palpable presence of Holy Spirit. He bids your prayers for our Deputation and for the holy work ahead.

Greetings from Baltimore where 412 resolutions will be considered in 4 days!

Because of the continued presence of Covid among us, the Triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church has been shortened from 8 days to 4. That work begins today. The work is so important and I’ll address some of those 412 resolutions in these daily blogs. But just as important as the work are the relationships in this community as we gather.

Camden Yards (still one of the best parks in Major League Baseball ) is right next to my hotel. Last night numerous bishops and deputies went to the game. I sat with my brother Massachusetts bishop Alan Gates. Since neither the Yankees nor Red Sox were playing, Alan and I decided to be on the same baseball side for a night and root for the Orioles together. That did not prevent me from pointing to the out-of-town scoreboard that showed the Yankees beating the Red Sox at Fenway. Always gracious, Alan did not pour his beer over my head.

Yesterday was filled with meeting so many old friends in the hallways of the hotel and the Convention Center. People who go back to my New York days. Bishops and Deputies that I have served with these ten years – on committees and in liturgy and on marches for social justice. We have prayed together and shared family stories. So many want to know how our grandchildren are doing. And I look forward to seeing Larry Provenzano today, our good friend who will be presiding at our daughter Grace’s wedding in a few weeks. And Jeff Fisher from Texas who was elected bishop the same day I was in June 2012. “Four Elections, Two Fishers, “ ran the headline in The Living Church. We have had many laughs over the times our meeting credentials get mixed up.

I look forward to working with our deputation from WMA led by the always faithful Tanya Wallace. We will gather everyday to discuss the issues and share stories.

And I miss those who have entered into Eternal Life. Including the Rev. Dr. Diane Vie. Like me, Diane is a priest married to a priest. Diane and I were co-chairs of a committee that helped to educate the Church on the opportunities  and challenges of having over 500 clergy couples. Diane died far too young a week ago. May she rest In peace and rise in glory.

To limit our numbers during Covid, the spouses of bishops are not included. I certainly miss Betsy and we both miss all the spouse friends we have made in this decade of supporting one another. But those relationships run deep and transcend this moment.

And I will miss music. Another Covid restriction is the elimination of singing. The music at General Convention has always been awesome and inspiring. My favorite non-Springsteen song is one we always sing in the House of Bishops. It is “The Canticle of the Turning.” It is one we really need for our country and our world right now. So I will keep the lyrics in my soul this week. Here is the powerful first verse:

My soul cries out with a joyful shout

That the God of my heart is great

And my spirit sings of the wondrous things

That you bring to the ones who wait

You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight

And my weakness you did not spurn

So from east to west shall your name be blest

Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring

Let the fires of your justice burn

Wipe away all tears for the dawn draws near

And the world is about to turn!

Text: Rory Cooney

It’s early morning and in two hours we will begin with liturgy and a sermon from our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. As always, he will be inspiring. And he will undoubtedly remind us who we are. “We are the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement that is out to change the world from the nightmare it is for so many into the dream God has for us.”

I’m blessed to be in this Movement. So blessed.

And when someone says to me today, “How are your grandchildren?” I will happily say, “There is a third one on the way.” And then I promise you I will resist being that guy who says, “You want to see pictures?”

The Jesus Movement rolls on.