From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[ENS] Eucharist imbued with the spirit of Anglican unity

From "Mika Larson" <>
Date Sun, 3 Aug 2003 17:03:39 -0400

August 3, 2003

Eucharist imbued with the spirit of Anglican unity

by Nan Cobbey and Sally Vallongo
Convention Daily 

[ENS] Music drew them the instant they entered the Minneapolis
Convention Center.  Rousing sounds  of a Sousa march, a massive gospel
choir, a jazz band filled the halls and spilled out the doors.	By 9:50
a.m., when the procession started, nearly 5,000 had found their seats in
the mammoth  auditorium for Sunday's Eucharist.

Most came early to sway along with the Revelation Choir and tap their
feet to Jazz on the  Prairie, a smaller portion of the 50-member Eden
Prairie Community Band that accompanied almost	all the morning's

Overhead, on a 34-foot screen behind the altar platform, images emerged,
faded and emerged again  in a muted, sometimes mystical, sequence of
color and shape. Photos of sculpted stone and wood  alternated with
bright collages of Africa, icons, artists' personal visions of heaven
and of	earth. 

The 200-plus choristers from 20 different Minnesota Episcopal churches
lived up to director  Howard John Small's challenge during their early
morning rehearsal:  "Give it your love as you  sing." They did. So did
the Creekside Ringers from St. Stephen's Church in Edina as they
interpreted a haunting Japanese folk tune before the service and, during
the procession of 200  bishops, 400-plus clergy, created an cascading
cacophony of bells that sounded like a peel  ringing out from on high. 

On more than a dozen fabric-draped tables waited the glass chalices and
hand-made birch bark  baskets ready to be carried forward at the
Offertory by members of the Youth Presence. One table  in the back of
the hall, draped in green, held gluten-free bread for those who might
otherwise  not be able to receive Communion. An equally thoughtful
offering of the worship planners stood at  the corner of the altar
platform. As soon as the music began, the signers for the deaf started
interpreting lyrics, alternating, first one, then the other, the
graceful, expressive ballet of	hands. 

As the procession ended and all bishops and clergy took their places,
Presiding Bishop Frank T.  Griswold declared to his gathered flock:
"Bendito sea Dios: Padre, Hijo y Espiritu Santo."  The	response, "and
blessed be his kingdom, now and forever" came in a number of languages
in addition  to the Spanish provided in the service booklet.

The spirit of Anglican unity

"We are the new society God has called into being," proclaimed Nigerian
Archbishop Josiah  Idowu-Fearon. "It is one people reconciled, of every
color and culture, the one and only family  of God."

In a 20-minute sermon notable for diplomacy, clarity, and fervor, the
chief pastor of the Kaduna  province of the huge Church of Nigeria,
undoubtedly satisfied those who have been praying, like  Bishop
Idowu-Fearon himself, for the unity of the church at a time of crisis.

"Our church family takes the Episcopal Church very seriously. When
America sneezes, the rest of  the world catches a cold. America, don't
sneeze too much," he said.

Drawing from the second reading, Ephesians 4, Idowu-Fearon described it
as a turning point for	Paul - and, by inference, the church. "Paul is
moving from theology to its practical and concrete  applications. I beg
you to lead a life that is worthy of that call."

Those who may have anticipated more pointed comment from the archbishop
on issues heating up the  74th convention had to content themselves with
reading between the lines of his eloquent message.  "They had hardened
their hearts, they became callous, they gave themselves to immorality,"
he  said, of the pre-Christian life Paul describes. Idowu-Fearon called
for Christians to "put off  the old life, turning away from it in
distaste, and put on the new life."

More pointedly, he continued: "It's not possible to change the heart,
but it is possible to  change the behavior. ... Changing one's dress,
one's attitudes, and one's behavior are essential  to becoming
Christian. But we are mistaken if we think it's all up to God. The way
you behave is  the way you become."

Deputy Sandie Brochak from Southern Ohio said, "He made some good points
- very pertinent to  what's going on here. There's more of a subtle
message, but if you were looking for it, it was  very direct."

Still, the archbishop refrained from any detailed directives reflecting
the more conservative  stance of the Church of Nigeria, second largest,
after the Church of England, of the member  provinces of the Anglican
Communion. Instead, he called for kindness, compassion and forgiving
among Christians.

Referring to his five-year relationship with Frank Griswold - they met
at the 1998 Lambeth  Convention - Idowu-Fearon said, "Frank, you've
taught me a lot. I'm beginning to understand  American culture." 

New York Bishop Mark Sisk praised the sermon. "I'm grateful that he
spoke kind words about the  presiding bishop. He deserves kind words.
[Idowu-Fearon] spoke out of his African context,  recognizing our
American context. It was splendid."

A former military school student in leadership training, the archbishop
said. "I'm the only  general from my class still serving in the army -
of Jesus Christ." 

In Nigeria, he noted, becoming a Christian marks a major change in a
person's entire life.  "Public baptism marks the passage from the realm
of estrangement, paganism and darkness to the  realm of Christianity."
Noting that he had found Christ at age 12, he said, "I've never been the
same since."

In the spirit of Anglican unity, Idowu-Fearon concluded: "We have to
repent and to come to Christ  and be reconciled to him. Then, we will be
able to build bridges."

The service ended the way it began, with spirited music, the uplifting
sound of joined voices:  "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" brought the
service to a close and John Philip Sousa's  "Minnesota March"
accompanied the crowd back into the world, back to their historic time
of  decision. 

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