Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gene Robinson: Rushing back from DC to put the diocese first

Barack Obama is now President and Madelyn Betz is now a priest. How do you like ‘dem apples?

I hate to make three posts in a day, particularly three in one day, but as my mother says, one should always strike while the iron is hot. You can scroll down for today's earlier posts about the policy actions President Obama has already taken and my travel experiences at BWI while coming home from the Inauguration.

Here is some helpful advice: always hold the door open for people, because not only is it the right and polite thing to do, you never know who it will be. Earlier this evening I saw a man approaching my church carrying large bundles in his arms and raced ahead to open the door for him; when I heard him say “Thank you,” I realized it was none other than the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson. He and I had both just raced back to Hanover, NH from Washington, DC for the ordination of the curate at St. Thomas Episcopal Church. I had the chance to interview him last fall; this is from that exchange:

Me: Do you get tired of talking about Lambeth, homosexuality, or Anglican conflicts?

GR: …No, I usually don’t get tired of it at all, because it’s just so important, and I feel so blessed to be able to play this role and use God in this way. But, like everyone else, I have my days and times when I just get really tired. Having the diocese to take care of really saves me from that, because as the bishop of a diocese, I cannot be a one-issue person. [WE: emphasis added]

+Gene has always insisted that he puts the diocese first, and he certainly did tonight. Barely 72 hours earlier, he was praying before hundreds of thousands at the Lincoln Memorial. 30 hours earlier, that prayer was played before millions on the National Mall jumbotrons. And just 26 hours earlier, he was sitting with the President of the United States, watching the inaugural parade together. Yet this evening, here he was in our tiny town of 10,000, lifting up another servant of God to help lead the body of Christ.

He did not preach, which is a shame as he is one of the best preachers I’ve ever heard. I did get to speak with him briefly after the service, however. I told him that half the Mall could not hear his inaugural prayer because of a broken speaker and that the other half could not hear him because the first half was chanting “WE CAN’T HEAR! WE CAN’T HEAR!” He gave a great belly laugh at that, as he had heard the chants but couldn’t understand them. (Update: +Gene kept a blog during the Lambeth Conference, and for the first time since August, has made several new posts on that blog to reflect on the Inauguration and the Inaugural concert prayer. Do check it out and read through. H/T James.)

Then, on a liturgical note, I asked him why he kneeled during the final blessing of the ordination service. He said it is something he does during ordinations to show the newly consecrated that all of us, including bishops, are blessed by their ministry. Orders – bishops, priests, deacons, laity – are about jobs and roles, not about worth and hierarchy.

Finally, as I am writing about an ordination, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you what a beautiful service it was – not just because of the smells and bells (and I do love incense!), but also because of who it was being ordained. Madelyn+ has been a wonderful deacon and curate, and will be just as wonderful a priest. As the rector – who is elated at the fact that his mid-week Eucharist load was just split in half – said, she brings warmth to a very cold state. She lives upstairs at the campus ministry, and though I was initially afraid of what a constant adult presence could do to the social dynamics of the ministry, she has struck a wonderful balance of mother, sister, and friend. She is also an expert musician. Madelyn+, we are thankful for and look forward to your ministry.

Without further ado, here is +Gene’s interview with Jon Stewart last night. If you’re short on time, at least watch the first 50 seconds:

No comments: