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By Sarah Kye Price
On my very first day at General Convention, I picked up a bright green wristband and my “Be Good News” t-shirt, hoping to live into my commitment to spread the Way of Love here at GC79. Each morning I have dutifully put on that wristband (whether or not it color coordinates with my outfit) along with the intention to live into that most elusive of concepts for us as Episcopalians: evangelism.
Over the past year, I’ve been rediscovering evangelism. As a grateful grantee of the Episcopal Evangelism Society, I’ve learned that sharing the good news transforms me, more than anyone else involved. Here at GC79, we have been repeatedly reminded that the Way of Love is the Good News into which we are living out our lives of faith. This doesn’t negate the fact that many of us carry around social baggage about “evangelism” based on the assumptions and past actions of others wielding that word. But, it doubles my resolve to change that narrative.
Each day, my bright green wristband has been an invitation to pay attention to my own actions, but also to allow myself to be revived by the evangelism of the angels of GC79, messengers of the Good News. So, as we prepare to go forth from this place, I am reflecting on the good news I have received here, and thinking about the ways to bring these evangelism lessons home.
Break and share bread together:
Right before the opening Eucharist, a woman I didn’t know asked me if I would like to serve as a Eucharistic minister. Although I didn’t know what that would entail in a gathering this size, I said “yes” anyway. I felt myself inextricably connected to this larger Church: fed, nurtured and joined to the vast diversity of people sharing this space. It reminded me how powerfully formative it is to serve the Body of Christ. On Wednesday, it was two beloved young children who offered me the bread of heaven. I have been challenged to think differently about pathways to service: not waiting (or requiring others to wait) until we know all the ropes, but being lovingly invited to serve exactly as we are, teaching and learning from one another as we break and share bread together.
When in doubt, choose love:
Every day, there are people here at GC79 who walk the way of love. They pause to pray with friends and strangers for an end to gun violence; they offer kind comments; they hold out love to the women detained behind the cement walls at Hutto; they sit down beside someone living on the streets to talk and to pray instead of just walking by; they hand me tangible reminders of Christ’s love, like the daily “ministry of silly cards” my friend Faith Anthony in the Order of St. Helena has been distributing. It is a choice to be engaged in these acts of love. We could choose fear, or apathy, or selfishness. But God chose love, and so can we. Loving is a God-endorsed choice that we have experienced here, and that we can carry home with us for the purpose of its proliferation in the world. Become what you have experienced.
Trust the Body:
What has impressed me the most here at GC79 is the reassurance that we do not have to think, speak or even believe exactly alike in order to be Church together, whether in our worship or in our polity. I have seen us develop common paths forward toward Prayer Book revision, and language that respects a great range of difference. We have listened while people spoke hard truths. This is counter-cultural in our ideologically polarized world. As we move into this triennium (2018-2021), we can bring this trust home. We can resist the urge to fight solely for our own individual perspective and consider first-and-foremost the Body of Christ. We can pray and patiently exercise deep listening across the divide. Try on what the Very Rev. Sam Candler referred to in a presentation to the House of Deputies as the Via Comprehensiva: the wider way where contraries do not always contradict. Let our first response be to trust the Body of Christ, so that we can hear our siblings, not just ourselves. Without that listening, we may miss our angels, the messengers of Good News in our midst who have much to teach us still.
Go forth, my friends, in the Way of Love!
Sarah Kye Price is a professor of social work at Virginia Commonwealth University and a seminarian at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. She was recently awarded a grant by the Episcopal Evangelism Society for her project, Faith from the Margins to the Web, a blog and Gospel commentary co-written by people living with homelessness, poverty or food insecurity. She’s a mild-mannered professor by day, and a multi-tasking superhero by, well, also by day.