note: this is a short account of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe‘s recent Discernment Conference, held during the weekend of Nov 19th-21st 2010, to appear in the next issue of Church of the Ascension‘s Ikon newsletter
With two dozen Episcopalians from around Europe (except for Rev. Kate Harrigan who flew in from Pennsylvania), the picturesque and historic Villa Palazzola in Rocca di Papa (“Papal redoubt”) across the lake from the Pope’s summer residence, and a weekend lived in discernment in a Eucharistic setting, the discernment conference organized by COMB (Commission on the Ministry of the Baptized) was a wonderful, blessed experience. Truly the Spirit was among us.
As a liturgical denomination, it is natural that our discernment process is shaped by the Eucharist’s fourfold nature — we meditate on what ministry we “take” to the altar, the talents and resources we are “blessed” with, our brokenness and challenges (“break”), and affirm, in groups of three, each other’s ministries (“give”) as we discern them.
It was a wonderful experience, being surrounded by so many earnest co-religionists, each with their unique spiritual path — indeed, in this case, all our paths lead to (just outside) Rome. The Collect for Richard Hooker, whose Feast Day was on Nov. 3, reads, in part, “Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth”. And after more than two years of becoming an Episcopalian, I finally see my church as that — not a compromise, not “Catholic Lite” (cf. Robin Williams), but a vibrant, moderate, open-minded, living body of Christ.
One’s ministry does not necessarily lead to ordination — but as the life, death, and resurrection of Christ reconciled us with the Divine, so are we called to a mission to the wider world. I heartily recommend anyone who is exploring their calling to go to the next discernment — and to keep discerning. Just as the Holy Spirit continually reshape our life, so might opportunities arise to which we might be called.