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The dust has settled from Presiding Bishop Curry’s whirlwind trip across the Diocese of Olympia, but the enthusiasm stirred up throughout the Episcopal Church in Western Washington remains. Over four days, the Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, traveled to nearly every corner of the diocese – from Bellingham in the north to Vancouver, WA in the south. He also split his time between larger public events (services and Q&A session) and smaller, more intimate gatherings that showed the range of ministries within the diocese.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing highlights and recaps from the Presiding Bishop’s visit to the diocese. On Thursday, June 14, Presiding Bishop Curry began his visit to the Diocese of Olympia with trips to St. Peter in Seattle, the Refugee Resettlement Office, the College for Congregational Development, and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Seattle was founded by Japanese Anglicans in 1908, and during his visit, Presiding Bishop Curry heard stories from survivors of the Japanese internment camps. The parishioners of St. Peter set up a display of photographs and artifacts from the camps, along with a map that showed how many of the survivors were dispersed across the nation. After hearing the stories, Presiding Bishop Curry addressed those who had gathered in the sanctuary. “Your story must continue to be told… [You must] pass on that story from generation to generation… We must work for an America where this can never happen again. And we are seeing a poisoning atmosphere where these atrocities can happen again.”

Following the brief visit to St. Peter, Presiding Bishop Curry was ushered downstairs to the home of the Diocese of Olympia’s Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO), a nonprofit organization that helps refugees feeling famine and violence resettle in the greater Seattle area and provides tools and resources to help them rebuild their lives. The Presiding Bishop listened to a presentation from RRO Executive Director Greg Hope and was introduced to the RRO’s staff. Finally, in a touching moment towards the end of the visit, Presiding Bishop Curry met refugees who were students in the RRO’s English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, where the students practiced introducing themselves to the Presiding Bishop, and he, in turn, reciprocated by introducing himself to the class.

From there, the Presiding Bishop and his staff traveled to the Dumas Bay Centre in Federal Way where the week-long College for Congregational Development (CCD) was entering the final stretch. Meeting with CCD staff and trainers, Presiding Bishop Curry learned about the history of the college and its goal of developing congregation of all sizes into more faithful, healthy, and effective communities of faith. He even had the opportunity to sit in on a plenary session about power and politics. Following the plenary, the Presiding Bishop spoke briefly about the importance of congregational development. “Just imagine what would happen if all the churches disappeared? All of the food banks and homeless shelters would stop. All of the hospitals and universities that were founded by churches would stop… Don’t think that what you do for congregations doesn’t matter.”

After a short break, our own Bishop Greg Rickel joined Presiding Bishop Curry for a Q&A session that touched on the Jesus Movement, the Reclaiming Jesus statement, the royal wedding, the relationship between Episcopalians and Lutherans, General Convention, locally ordained clergy, and his own spiritual practices. In discussing this current moment in the church, Presiding Bishop Curry said, “The core of the gospel is about loving God and loving your neighbor… [We’re] helping Christians reclaim the Jesus of the gospels.”

When the questions (and flurry of selfie requests) ended, it was back to Seattle for Evensong at Saint Mark’s Cathedral. With rising interest in the Presiding Bishop following his sermon at the royal wedding, crowds were lined up hours before the service was scheduled to begin. “I hope the newspapers will take note that the Episcopal cathedral in Seattle was full on a Thursday night!” Presiding Bishop Curry said, beginning his sermon. He went on the speak at length about the redemptive power of love and the destructive power of selfishness. “We would have a different country if love was our way! Jesus started a movement that has changed the world before and can change the world again.”

The service was followed by another Q&A session with Bishop Rickel. Presiding Bishop Curry again spoke about the Reclaiming Jesus statement and the royal wedding, but also touched on questions of hope, support for Palestinian Christians, immigration detention centers, and the long road toward making amends with indigenous people. When asked what he considered to be the most important thing, he responded, “Placing Jesus at the center of our lives. What you often hear is political rhetoric with a religious shroud. You don’t hear Jesus. We must reclaim Jesus as Christians.”

With that, the first day of Presiding Bishop Curry’s visit to the Diocese of Olympia was over. It was an exciting start, but there was still much more to come. Check back next week for highlights and recaps of day two – meetings with diocesan staff and leadership, followed by a trip to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bellingham!

CCD image by Diocese of Olympia.
Evensong image by Kevin Johnson.
All other images by Gabe Archer.

Watch Presiding Bishop Curry’s Evensong sermon at Saint Mark’s Cathedral:

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