Celebrating the ministry of women; Taking the Church into the world

The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris (photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)
The Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris (photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)
This past Saturday I joined with other bishops from Province I to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the consecration of Barbara Harris as a bishop of the Episcopal Church. Some 2,500 persons gathered at St. Paul’s Cathedral for a morning of reflections, including excerpts from the videotape of the consecration, and an afternoon Eucharist. It was grand day filled with powerful remembrances, Gospel music, and an outstanding sermon by our Presiding Bishop. Watching the videotape made me aware of how much we now expect and take for granted the ministries of ordained women and how great the struggle was to make those ministries possible. It is always difficult to move the church – or any institution – to a new place.

During the morning’s reflections we learned about a new program of the Diocese of Massachusetts designed to help the church connect with this generation of young adults. The diocese has engaged and trained several “relationship evangelists” who seek out one-to-one encounters with young adults at Boston University, Harvard University and several communities around Boston. The evangelists are not seminary trained and not attached to a particular congregation. Their task is to talk with young adults about their passions and then to offer the church as a place where they might find support. Relationship evangelism has been underway for eight months now, and the first goal is to invite 200 young adults to hear theologian and evangelist Brian McLaren this coming Saturday. The whole point is to meet young adults where they are and to hear from them about what they care about. It’s about taking the church out of itself and into the world – and it’s obviously very different for traditional evangelism. All of us took part in short exercise sharing our passions with our neighbor to help us get a feel for the work. I wondered how we might use relationship evangelism in the Diocese of Maine.