I had the privilege of attending the installation of The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church this past Sunday at Washington National Cathedral. I slipped in after playing two services at St. Alban’s that morning, even knowing that I still had a rehearsal and service for an All Souls service coming up after the Cathedral’s service. A day only a church professional could love! I was happy to celebrate with thousands of others all that Michael Curry represents as a leader in this church – compassion and passion, wisdom and levity all bound together in one energetic human frame that seems fired up by God and for God’s work in this world.
I don’t think it’s possible for anyone who works in the church – clergy or lay people alike – to attend any service without having their critical eyes and ears working overtime. We so rarely can simply worship when we go to church. And so it was with the clergy and friends surrounding me at the installation. Difficult to understand all of Curry’s words as he swiveled from side to side in the pulpit…was the sermon just a few minutes too long? That hymn is a lot slower than I like to sing it…no one seems to know this piece of service music. Too many things from too many traditions jammed into a service that sometimes came just a little to close to chaos. Not very good liturgy, some have said.
But it was really great church. Ours is a church of many sides, styles, flavors, colors, and traditions. It was right to have a service that pointed to as many of those things as it could. I don’t think anyone would want a 3 hour service from the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink school of liturgical style all the time, but it was perfect for that day and occasion, and for this time in our church’s life.
There was one moment in Sunday’s ceremony that spoke most deeply to me, and not surprisingly it was the very simplest of things. Three Native Americans accompanied the Gospel procession, with a small hand drum and some kind of rattle. It was spare and quiet and held everyone’s attention. God speaks in the chaotic joy of course, but I hear God’s voice more loudly in those quiet moments. Together, all of it, exuberant or still, made for good church.
God bless Bishop Curry and the Episcopal Church.