[Episcopal News Service]
The gates at the west doors of Washington National Cathedral opened shortly after 11 a.m. on November 4 and Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori stepped fully into her new ministry as the Episcopal Church’s 26th Presiding Bishop, calling all members of the Church into deepened service and “shalom.”
After Washington Bishop John Chane and Cathedral Dean Samuel Lloyd opened the cathedral’s doors in response to Jefferts Schori’s three knocks, Jill Beesley, outgoing president of the Diocese of Nevada’s Standing Committee and her successor, the Rev. James Kelly, presented Jefferts Schori as their diocese’s “bishop, chief pastor, and sister in Christ” and sent her forth to be the Presiding Bishop.
“Katharine, Bishop in the Church of God, we have looked forward to your coming with great joy. In the name of Christ, we greet you,” replied 25th Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.
“I hope to serve among you in Christ’s name and in the joy of the Spirit,” she said.
A new era begins in hope and faith, with a strong call to serve Christ by serving others, and to work for peace and justice. Bishop Katharine will be a leader in the fight against poverty, and a reconciler in the struggle to hold the liberal and conservative wings of the Episcopal church together. She has spoken out frequently about working toward the Millennium
Development Goals, and will strive to inspire us all, liberal and conservative, to work together to follow in the path of Christ.
An excerpt from her first homily:
During her homily, Jefferts Schori called the Church to her vision of “shalom.”
Shalom “doesn’t just mean that sort of peace that comes when we’re no longer at war,” she said.
“It is that rich and multihued vision of a world where no one goes hungry because everyone is invited to a seat at the groaning board, it’s a vision of a world where no one is sick or in prison because all sorts of disease have been healed, it’s a vision of a world where every human being has the capacity to use every good gift that God has given, it’s a vision of a world where no one enjoys abundance at the expense of another, where all enjoy Sabbath rest in the conscious presence of God,” she said. “Shalom
means all human beings live together as siblings, at peace with one another and with God, and in right relationship with all of the rest of creation.”
Shalom is created, she said, when all people are at home with each other and with God. Echoing both Augustine’s belief that “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee, O Lord,” and Robert Frost’s notion of an all-accepting, all-forgiving home in his poem “Death of the Hired Man,” Jefferts Schori said: “We all ache for a community that will take us in, with all our warts and quirks and petty meannesses – and still celebrate when they see us coming!”
“That vision of homegoing and homecoming that underlies our deepest spiritual yearnings is also the job assignment each one of us gets in baptism – go home, and while you’re at it, help to make a home for everyone else on earth,” she continued. “For none of us can truly find our rest in God until all of our brothers and sisters have also been welcomed home like the prodigal.”
“The home we ultimately seek is found in relationship with creator, with redeemer, with spirit,” she said.
Jefferts Schori called the Church to live out “the vision of shalom embodied in the Millennium Development Goals that the Church committed itself to at the 75th General Convention.
“That vision of abundant life is achievable in our own day, but only with the passionate commitment of each and every one of us,” she said to applause. “It is God’s vision of homecoming for all humanity.”
The Gospel for the service was Luke 4:14-21, in which Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, one of Jefferts Schori’s favorite passages; the prophet proclaims his mission “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor …” Jesus tells those listening in the synagogue that “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jefferts Schori said that the scripture can be fulfilled in our hearing “in the will to make peace with one who disdains our theological position – for his has merit, too, as the fruit of faithfulness. In the courage to challenge our legislators to make poverty history, to fund AIDS work in Africa, the distribution of anti-malarial mosquito nets, and primary schools where all children are welcomed. In the will to look within our own hearts and confront the shadows that darken the dream that God has planted
“That scripture is fulfilled each time we reach beyond our narrow self-interest to call another home. That scripture is fulfilled in ways both small and large, in acts of individuals and of nations, whenever we seek the good of the other, for our own good and final homecoming is wrapped up in that.”
She called the Church to “a deep and abiding hope” and “a hope that has the audacity to join Jesus in proclaiming the fulfillment of the scriptures and “join the raucous throngs in creation, the sea creatures and the geological features who leap for joy at the vision of all creation restored – restored to proper relationship, to all creation come home at last.”
Ending her sermon, Jefferts Schori said, “Shalom, chaverim, shalom, my friends, shalom.”