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A message from our Presiding Bishop

April 19, 2024

Office of Public Affairs


 Dear friends, 



For this week's reflection, I offer below the words of our soon to be retiring Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry. ++Curry has served 9 years in this PB role, and among other things, those years included his wedding speech at a royal wedding, the pandemic, and some very serious health challenges that he is still in recovery from.


++Curry's overall message throughout his ministry has been one of Love. God's love for our world, for the Church, and for each one of us. His speech last week to the Executive Council (the body that runs the Episcopal Church in between the General Conventions every 3 years) is personal and profound as he seeks to pastor us one last time through a time of transition in the Church, in the world and in our communities. I invite you to read his words all the way to the end. We will soon have not only a new Presiding Bishop, but also a new Bishop Diocesan here in DioMass. May we heed ++Curry's words and breathe, be still, and know that God is with us in every step of whatever is next!


Easter blessings,

Nancy+


+ + + +


The following is a lightly edited transcript of the opening remarks of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, meeting April 18-20 in Raleigh, North Carolina.


I thought that I would just share a couple of things, nothing long. One of the things that I’m aware of, personally aware of, is transition. I mean, the reality is, I mean, being stuck in and out of hospitals and ICU units and all that kind of stuff, you’re aware of transitions. And I mean there was a moment in the ICU unit when I vaguely remember being awake. And actually, I woke up—and I think it was Saturday night or Sunday, early Sunday morning rather—and I remember I woke up, and it was the first time I woke up. I mean, I’d been out since Wednesday—and I didn’t know where I was.


And one of the nurses came in the room and she was doing something. They’re always fiddling with something. And I have to admit, part of me said, is this an angel? I really did, kind of, I wasn’t sure where I was. And I finally said, excuse me, ma’am, where am I? And she said, you’re in REX Hospital. You’re in the ICU unit. You did very well on your surgery. You’ve come through your surgery, and now you can just rest. And I went back to sleep. I don’t remember anything more after that, but I also realized that the power of that word just oriented me to where I was and that you’re OK. That is all I needed.


And a lot of times that’s all we need. The power of that word that just orients you to where you are when you don’t know for sure makes all the difference in the world. You don’t have to have all the answers. I didn’t have all the answers. I didn’t know what they had done. I knew vaguely what they were supposed to do. I didn’t know they had more to do than they expected to do. But just that orienting word was enough. There’s a story in Exodus, and some of the Exodus stories have been in the morning daily office readings. This one comes from the 14th chapter, and it’s just when Charlton Heston has led the, yeah, he’s forever; his daughter’s an Episcopalian.


He just led the Israelites out of Egypt, and they’re finally on their way out. And this part is in the Bible, not just the movie, but he leads them out, and Pharaoh changed his mind and decided he was going to go after and get these slaves back. He said, we need that labor. And so Pharaoh, the chariots are going, and you remember Yul Brynner riding in the chariot. I mean, it’s a great movie. I mean, it really is. So anyway, they’re chasing after, and the people realize that they’re coming after them. and they’re kind of betwixt and between because that’s their past, and the past is coming to get them; and their future is not clear because the Red Sea is in front of them, and they don’t know how they’re going to get through to whatever that future is.


And in the movie, Joshua tells Moses, get up on the rocks so people can see you. I’ve looked, I haven’t found that in the actual Bible, but Moses does at one point, as the people start murmuring, they say, well, you brought us out here to kill us. I mean, at least we had jobs in Egypt. They sort of start grumbling with Moses, and Moses in the Bible does get up where the people can see him and he tells them, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.


One of the psalmists says, be still and know that I am God. In those moments of transition, which are dangerous—you know the old saying, better the devil you know than the one you don’t know; there’s a lot of truth in that. I mean, at least you had the security of knowing what was there before, but what’s ahead of you that you haven’t yet lived and haven’t yet seen? That’s uncertain. It’s risky, and you don’t control it completely. You have some agency, but you don’t control it completely. And it’s then in that moment of transition from, do we go back to slavery, or do we go forward to the risk of freedom through a sea that’s just there? They didn’t know it was going to part. What do we do? And Moses says, stand still and see the salvation of God.


That may be a word for us, both as church and as world. And maybe in these moments of transition, I mean for us in church; I mean, this is my last Executive Council, so I can graduate with the class of ‘24. I remember my first year coming on council, I had no idea what was going on. It was just, I had never served on Executive Council. Fortunately, Secretary Barlowe and (then House of Deputies President) Gay Jennings and everybody kind of tutored me along the way; I said, I have to chair a meeting I don’t know anything about? Well, that’s actually half the job of most bishops, but they won’t tell you that.

I can’t tell you how many times, when I was bishop in North Carolina and the investment committee, well, actually the trustees would meet, and I had to chair the trustees meeting and that was fine, but the investment committee, I was also supposed to be present. So I’m sitting there and you’re talking about all the investments and all this, but I had to chair it. And so another bishop said, let me tell you a secret of how you chair a meeting where you have no idea what’s going on. You say, let us proceed; what is before us? Agenda item is X, and you call on somebody—is there a conversation that we should have? And you let them do all the talking, and then you don’t have to say a word or even know what’s going on. I have no idea what that had to do with any of this, but the reality is sometimes you find yourself in moments and situations where you don’t know.


You don’t have all of the knowledge that you need, and you’ve got to figure out, how do I navigate that? As a church we’re kind of in that moment. We are. I mean, it’s not just that we’re electing a new PB (presiding bishop), but we are. That’s unsettling for everybody, including for those nominees. I can tell you, I was one, and it’s unsettling because you put yourself out there publicly, and you might not get elected, and you got to figure out, how do I act? I mean, you can’t cry and go home. It’s kind of like, what do you do? I mean, it’s uncertain, and the transition is in an uncertain time.


This great church of ours will sail forward, but not the way it has always sailed. That’s just the reality. And that’s OK.


The movement of Jesus in this world has been through ups and downs. This Jesus thing has been the established church like in the Church of England, and it’s been disestablished. It’s crowned emperors, and it’s been imprisoned by emperors. We’ve been through it all. But that movement of people who are committed to this Jesus and his way of love, that movement will not stop.


That’s what Jesus was talking about when he told Peter, thou art Peter and on this, on you, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against you. That’s what Jesus was getting at.


When you’re in those transition moments, you’re not really sure, is the Red Sea going to part? Are we going to go back to slavery? What do we do? Stand still; see the salvation of God. That’s where we are now as a church, but it’s also where we are in this country. We don’t know who’s going to be elected president and what’s going to happen depending on who that is. … The reality is this country is betwixt and between. We are at one of those, I think they call them liminal moments, which is fraught with possibility but also danger. And that’s where we are as a country. And that’s when people start acting out. There’s going to be a lot of acting out between now and that election, and God knows, probably after the election. I mean, that’s those in-between transitional moments.


They really are risky, which is why, I mean, I actually did learn something in seminary. I remember taking this liturgy course and the professor said, have you ever noticed that all of the pastoral offices that are in the prayer book and in the book of occasional offices, those pastoral moments are at moments of transition, because that’s when everybody is least certain—whether it’s the birth or adoption of a child, whether it’s sickness in the hospital, whether it’s death or whatever.


There are those moments of transition because those are, I think Brene Brown would say it this way: That’s when we are most vulnerable and least in control. We have some agency, but least in control. I remember when our first daughter, when we were home with this baby, and I didn’t say it to Sharon, but I said, what are we going to do with it? Fortunately, her mother came over to help out. You’ve got to have somebody who’s been there before, but it was the most, I don’t know why, when we got home, because there were no nurses around. It’s just you and this child. We had never done that before. Those are liminal—those are those moments where you’re on the threshold of something incredible and yet risky at the same time.


That’s where we are as a church. That’s where we are as a nation, and that’s where we are as a world. And when you’re in those kind of moments, that’s when folk act up. We’re seeing it on the world stage. We’re going to see it—trust me, you’re going to see it on the national stage. We won’t see it in The Episcopal Church, of course, but it’s human. Rabbi Friedman taught us this is human, and it comes with the territory.


So how do you get through it? I think Moses gave us, showed us the way: Stand still and behold the salvation of God. Be still, as the psalmist says, and know that I am God. To finally in the end, put your hands in the hands of the God who made us and made this world. That’s ultimately what we all have to do.


I hadn’t come near death before, or I didn’t know it, and I didn’t know until my wife actually told me this. This was a couple of weeks ago. We were just talking. She said, the surgeon said, this is going to be risky—one of the head things. I got to tell you, when they were doing all these, I’ve lost track of all the head things they’ve had to do. They’ve been inside my head more than, anyway, more than Carter’s got pills, as the old folks used to say, and apparently the one where they were going to go in—this one that’s got a scar there. That one, I was out of it while most of this was going on. … I finally learned what was going on. I really didn’t know, but she said, the surgeon, who’s an Episcopalian, by the way, a parishioner here in St. Michael’s, Raleigh, so I knew I was in good hands. He had a vested interest.


And he told Sharon, he said, he told her ahead of time, this is really risky. We’ve got to go in; there’s an aneurysm, and we’ve got to go in. We do this all the time, but I forgot what they call that fancy name. But basically they put coils in. Yes. Literally they put this thing in right through the hole that’s right here. They put it in, and it fills up the aneurysm, the bubble, and it takes over the bubble and it creates a dam. So blood won’t go through it and then potentially explode, which—you’ve got a bigger problem then. And the blood will find wherever it needs to go, and go where it goes. And that’s what they did. Well, he just gave Sharon a heads up, but I’m sure she was happy to hear that. … He gave her a heads up, which also helped her to know what the risk and the dangers are, as well as what the hope was. The hope was he’ll recover. He’ll have memory lapses for a while and all that kind of stuff, but the risk is, this is risky surgery.


To know that helps you navigate the unknown, not with a false confidence, but with an informed faith that you can walk through.


How do you navigate these transitions? Have a God; put your hand in the hands of that God. My grandma used to sing, my grandmother was from Eastern North Carolina; that’s the rural part of North Carolina—that’s seriously rural. In her church, they used to always sing, hold on to God’s unchanging hand. How do you navigate this transition? Hold on. Jesus, on the cross, quotes the psalmist: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.


And then lastly, and I’ll sit down and shut up. But lastly, you know what? We’ve got to hold on to each other’s hands. You’ve heard me say this before—it’s one of my favorite quotes. It’s from that book by Robert Fulghum, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” And it’s sort of, it’s like a 10 commandments of what you learned in kindergarten that you ought to carry in life. And so the first one, he says, share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Would that these were enshrined for members of the Congress of the United States. But anyway, don’t hit people. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat; it really is important. Flush. And then when you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, and hold hands to each other.


When you go out into the world, Episcopal Church Executive Council, as we go out into the world, into the future, hold hands. What the old hymn says, “Precious Lord, take my hand. Lead me on, let me stand. I’m tired, I’m weak. I’m worn. Through the storm, through the night.” God love you. Thank you.

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