All photos by Gabe Archer.
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 Friday, June 15, Presiding Bishop Curry met with diocesan staff at the Office of the Bishop, participated in a Q&A with Bishop Rickel for the diocesan governing bodies and members of the press, and traveled to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bellingham for another Q&A with Bishop Rickel.
Friday morning of the Presiding Bishop’s visit began quietly with a visit to the Office of the Bishop and breakfast with diocesan staff. Staff introduced themselves, spoke a little with the Presiding Bishop about the work they do for the diocese, and discussed the new diocesan vision of locally centered and networked communities, forming Christian leaders through sacrament and service. There was a little bit of time for staff to ask the Presiding Bishop questions, and he touched on his sermon at the royal wedding, his philosophy on growing the diaconate, immigration issues, and he encouraged the staff to “Do it together. We need each other. None of us alone is capable.” When asked about the intersection between The Episcopal Church and the Poor People’s Campaign, Presiding Bishop Curry said, “We’re in a moment when we’ll need a variety of movements from a variety of angles – a cross-fertilized movement of people of faith. That kind of movement is the kind of movement that can shift things for this country.”
Once the meeting with diocesan staff had concluded, the Presiding Bishop prepared for his Q&A in the great hall with members of the diocesan governing bodies and representatives from the press. The gathering included members of the Diocesan Board of Directors, Diocesan Council, and the Diocesan Standing Committee. After a few brief words between Bishop Rickel and the Presiding Bishop, he was asked about the recent immigration crisis at our border. “Jesus of Nazareth was absolutely clear – remember to welcome the strangers… It is important to speak. This is just human decency.” The Presiding Bishop answered questions on the Reclaiming Jesus statement, church planting, church growth, the ordination process, and quiet ways to reach out and share our faith with others. He also spoke a little bit about his daily spiritual practice or morning prayer, evening prayer or compline, going to the gym, and going on a retreat at least once a year. “There are some days when morning prayer isn’t the most thrilling. But there’s something about it. You’ve got to find your spiritual rhythm. I’m much more aware and capable of listening early in the morning.”
Following the Q&A, the Presiding Bishop was whisked out the back door, so he and his staff could hit the road in time to make the public event up north in Bellingham, WA. As it was, traffic along I-5 was not very cooperative and the Q&A at St. Paul, Bellingham started a little later than scheduled. However, the excitement and energy of those gathered from the northern part of the diocese wouldn’t be dampened by the delay. Children sat at the front of the sanctuary at St. Paul, wearing their own foam miters and preparing questions for the Presiding Bishop. When he arrived, in the midst of enthusiastic applause from the adults, Presiding Bishop Curry focused on the children and gave high fives to the entire front row. After introductions from the Rev. Jonathan Weldon and Bishop Rickel, the Presiding Bishop spoke briefly about the Jesus Movement. “The power of that you can actually see in the New Testament – a group of people gathering together around Jesus of Nazareth, learning from him, being changed through his spirit. And the world was changed.”
The final Q&A session of the day included a question from one of the children in the front row. When asked if he arrived in Bellingham on a horse, Presiding Bishop Curry replied, “Yes! It’s called horsepower!” Answering questions about the royal wedding, he spoke a bit about the power of love to bring together people from different nations, ethnicities, and religious traditions. “I know it’s only for a moment, but love has the power to bring us together.” He also answered questions about the Reclaiming Jesus movement, obstacles to truly following Jesus, immigration issues, interfaith conversations, mass incarceration, and the Jesus Movement. He was also asked about his source of optimism for the world’s well-being: “God is not finished with us. I know that human progress is not straight and linear and easy… but keep moving! My great-grandmother was the daughter of sharecroppers who were the children of slaves… and her great-grandson preached at the royal wedding in Windsor Castle!”
It was a long day of travel on this second day of Presiding Bishop Curry’s visit to the Diocese of Olympia. Check back next week for highlights and recaps of day three – a Q&A at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olympia, followed by a visit to Aberdeen for a march through the city and a rally for affordable housing led by Chaplains on the Harbor!