By Helen Hankins and Irene Cotter
On November 1, as your delegates,we also took part in a second and Special Diocesan Convention that convened at St Mark’s Grand Rapids. The purpose of this convention was twofold: to approve the budget for 2015 and, importantly, to mark the beginning of a new cycle for annual conventions that will be held each year in November, rather than May. It is the Bishop’s hope that this change in cycle will help foster more deanery discussion to bring our budgets in alignment with our missions.
Prior to our meeting in convention, we experienced a beautiful Eucharist in St. Mark’s, which included Bishop Wayne Hougland’s sermon for All Saints’ Day: “Dreaming Together and Seeking the Will of God.” In his sermon, the Bishop reflected on some of his favorite medieval saints, pointing to our religious heritage and the importance of those links that unite us together as Christians today. With our good attention and intention, we have the chance to keep their dreams and advance their mission.
Following the Eucharist, the convention met to approve the budget and Bishop Wayne reported on his first year. Significant in his report is the plan to expand the confirmation process throughout the diocese on the four baptismal feast days (January, April, May and November). To further facilitate the process, the 14 week preparation for confirmation will now be available on line as well as within each parish.
The Bishop also highlighted the work done in Safeguarding God’s People and Safeguarding Children Programs, now available online and also commended the formation of a new Racism Awareness program headed by The Rev. Susan York.
In an effort to include young adults into our Church, Bishop Wayne reported that that three campus ministries that were established in the diocese last spring are thriving. He also noted that the diocese has seeded money for a Young Adult Missioner (Kyle Bos) to serve three years in Grand Rapids. Kyle has established a pilot program of a young adult intentional community. Each Thursday a group shares a meal, Eucharist, intercessions, readings and personal stories. Kellan Day, a recent graduate of Calvin College, spoke passionately about her experience with the group. Kellan observed that although people often come and go, real growth happens to the core of the community. Much of what we heard from her reflections seemed to be reminiscent of EFM (Education for Ministry).
Finally, and one of the highpoints of the convention was a viewing of the documentary film “Lost Boy Home” (available online) that features the inspirational story of Rev. Zachariah Char, of Sudanese Grace Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids. Rev. Char spoke briefly about his life as a Sudanese “lost boy,” escaping the civil wars in Sudan at the age of 5, his life in Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps, and his journey to become an ordained Episcopal Priest in 2007. His story brought a deeper meaning to the celebration of All Saints Day.