‘Y’all’ Explore Austin

If you hear me utter an uncharacteristic “Y’all,” there is a logical explanation: I’ve just returned from nearly two weeks in Austin, Texas!

I had the honor of serving as a lay deputy to The Episcopal Church’s 79th General Convention, held at the Austin Convention Center July 3-13. The Rev. Mark Seitz, rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling, was an alternate clergy deputy to the triennial gathering.

A total of 110 Episcopal dioceses, located throughout the United States, the Caribbean region, Central America, South America and Europe, sent deputies and bishops to the General Convention. Each diocese was represented by four lay deputies and four clergy deputies. In addition to approximately 880 deputies seated on the floor of the House of Deputies, members of the Official Youth Presence participated in the sessions. Seated in the galleries were alternate deputies, international and ecumenical guests, visitors, media representatives and volunteers.

The House of Bishops met in another area of the convention center. They were invited to join the House of Deputies for a couple of joint sessions and three TEConversations on topics related to evangelism, racial reconciliation and environmental issues.

Triennial meetings of the Episcopal Church Women and the National Altar Guild Association also took place in Austin during the same time period.

Each day, deputies and bishops were kept busy from early morning until late in the evening with committee meetings, hearings on resolutions, legislative sessions, worship services and other events.

A historic moment occurred when both houses voted to re-admit the Diocese of Cuba into The Episcopal Church after a 52-year separation. The Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, bishop of Cuba, and a delegation from her diocese were welcomed with applause, standing ovations, cheering and the waving of Cuban flags.

General Convention also provided the chance to reconnect with old friends and forge new friendships, as well as opportunities to hear speakers from around the world address a variety of topics.

For instance, during a conversation on care of creation, the speakers included the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, who told of the severe water crisis in Cape Town, and Native Alaskan Bernadette Demientieff, whose voice broke repeatedly as she described the destruction of the Gwich’in people’s way of life and the environmental threat to their sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Making an emotional appearance were Philip and April Schentrup, Episcopalians whose daughter Carmen was killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Schentrups, accompanied by their surviving daughter and son, spoke to General Convention attendees and participated in a large outdoor prayer service, an evening gathering and daily prayer times organized by a group known as Bishops United Against Gun Violence.

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A highlight of General Convention was the Episcopal Revival that drew thousands of enthusiastic Episcopalians to the Palmer Event Center, located across the river from downtown Austin, on July 7 to sing, pray, share Holy Eucharist and listen to an energized sermon by the Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church.

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Another powerful experience during General Convention was participating in a July 8 prayer service held outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, where female immigrants are being detained in Taylor, Texas.

More than 1,000 people assembled at the Doak Park softball fields, adjacent to the privately run detention center, to sing, pray and hear another stirring message delivered by Curry. Convention attendees filled 20 chartered buses and several private cars for the hour-long drive from Austin to Taylor, where they were joined by city officials and local residents for the prayer service.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net.

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