Today, we gathered in our opening Eucharist to liturgically open the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Indianapolis. In the room were thousands of Episcopalians, perhaps the largest such gathering since the last Convention three years ago. In this Eucharist we celebrated the lives and ministry of Walter Rauschenbusch, who came to believe that Jesus died “to substitute love for selfishness as the basis of human society” and boldly pointed out our “social sins” which Jesus bore on the cross, which included greed and political power;, and Washington Gladden, who was dedicated to the realization of the Kingdom of God in this world; and Jacob Riis, who did much to awaken the nation to the plight of the urban poor. With those great prophets on our minds and hearts, we celebrated Eucharist. However, this Eucharist was less to me, because in this liturgical expression we once again incarnated the reality of one of, if not our most pressing, spiritual issue for us as Western Christians, and Episcopalians: we failed to take any monetary offering.
I knew there would be many excuses for this, perhaps logistics, there were just so many present that it could not be done, or one I hear often, we are being “nickeled and dimed to death.” In fact, when asked, a few of the worship team stated that they had to “cut time” and this would have added four minutes. Four minutes.
There are certainly many excuses but none of them hold water. Here we were, literally thousands of us gathered, with full stomachs, most on 10+ dollar breakfasts, Starbucks coffee, and money to spread over the next few weeks. Even 1 dollar per person, some symbol of our monetary wealth and giving, from each person, would have collected a huge amount, collectively, that this Convention, which will haggle and divide about nothing more than money in the days to come, could have given to something outside itself. Instead, it quietly went undone. In fact, as we calculated later, if every person, gave one dollar every time we came together for Eucharist during our time here, we would have over $30,000 by the end of this convention to give to someone, or something Rauschenbusch would have smiled at. With Rauschenbusch, Gladden, and Riis’s names still hovering in the room, and with them looking on in the great cloud of witnesses we, in our worship, exemplified our continued pathology and denial around the issue of money.
Ironically my next task as Chair of the Stewardship and Development legislative committee was to move to our hearings on resolution AO87 entitled “Resolution on Wealth” calling on the church to truly take up the issue. We did in fact take this up, and afterward discussed what had just happened in our worship before. And, we created a resolution calling on this convention, and all future conventions, to never again neglect the chance to gift God’s children with a way to give back, even if it requires that we take four minutes of our precious time to do so.