Episcopalian revival: Hold the fire and brimstone

2017-11-14 | The Record (Stockton, Calif.)

Nov. 13--STOCKTON -- There will be no tents, torches or sermons threatening hell and damnation.

The Episcopalian Church doesn't do revivals that way.

That it's doing a revival at all is a startling break from tradition, but it's holding a three-day revival in the San Joaquin Valley beginning Friday at University of the Pacific.

"It's not typically something coming out of the Episcopal Church," said the Rev. Anna Carmichael, Canon to the Ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. "We're usually heady, not so emotive. We don't do a lot to get anyone's attention."

All of that is changing under Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, who was elected to lead the national church for a nine-year term in 2015.

Curry has called on Episcopalians to join the Jesus Movement and said the three-day San Joaquin Revival -- which continues with events Saturday in Fresno and Sunday in Bakersfield -- is just the beginning. More revivals are planned across the country.

"The Jesus Movement is his calling card," Carmichael said. "He and his staff are working around reconciliation. They saw the Jesus Movement as going to the early church, the early Jesus followers, who were looking to do good things: loving, liberating, having life-giving relationships with people in the community and with God. He frames everything in that context."

"Called to be ... A Safe Place For All God's People" is the name of the three-day event, and is an outreach to people of all faiths.

It begins at 4 p.m. Friday in front of Pacific's DeRosa Center, where Curry will speak about the Jesus Movement.

At 6 p.m., the program moves inside, where community members will share stories of their struggles related to immigration, refugee status and being DACA residents.

"The presiding bishop will respond to their needs and concerns and call us as Christians to stand in solidarity with (them)," as a demonstration of Christian ethics and mores, Carmichael said.

It's not that Episcopalians have not engaged with their community in the past, but Curry's call for action is grander.

"As an Episcopalian, I see listening to the pain and the stories of our brothers and sisters is not just giving food or giving a home. That's good, but (it doesn't) change the system," said the Rev. Lyn Morlan, rector of The Episcopal Church of St. Anne's in Stockton. "That's where I see this presiding bishop making that call. We need to get out and change the system. The first step is to get out and know our neighbors, the ones who don't sit in the pews. For me it's exciting, touching my heart, giving me more life."

Morlan, 65, has been a member of the Episcopal church her entire life, was ordained in 2003, and became rector at St. Anne's in 2011. She sees something special in the North Carolina-born Curry, the first black presiding bishop in the Episcopalian Church.

"There's something there, maybe something a little bit Baptist in his roots," Morlan said. "He's a dynamic speaker. He is energy-filled and so passionate about us putting aside our differences and working together to take care of big social issues that cross all of our religious boundaries."

Curry has a close ally in the Rt. Rev. David C. Rice, whom Curry will install as bishop of the San Joaquin Diocese in a service beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at Fresno's St. James Episcopal Cathedral.

"He has a heart for all of this," Morlan said of Rice, who led a 700-mile bicycle ride through the diocese, which runs from San Andreas to Ridgecrest, located east of Bakersfield, to raise awareness about human trafficking.

Rice arrived at the diocese in 2014 as provisional bishop, seven years after the conservative Bishop John David Schofield attempted to remove the Diocese of San Joaquin from the national Episcopal Church after the church ordained its first gay bishop.

Legal disputes over ownership of the property of all but one of the churches that left with Schofield to join the Anglican Communion were resolved in 2016, and Rice's ordination is seen by some as a symbolic move forward.

"For so long this diocese was cut off from any communication with the larger church," Carmichael said, noting Schofield began withdrawing the diocese from national matters before he moved to separate completely in 2007. "As we recovered from and worked our way through the litigation process, Michael Curry made people understand the value of being connected to the larger church. Michael Curry is the beacon of hope around here, that things could be different."

He now looks to shine his light on the broader community.

The revival that begins Friday in Stockton moves to Fresno for Rice's ordination and a Cathedral block party on Saturday and ends Sunday in Bakersfield with a 10 a.m. service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church followed by volunteers stuffing 1,000 yellow bags with toiletries, socks, and other necessities that church members carry in their cars to distribute to the homeless they come across.

For more information about the three-day revival, visit diosanjoaquin.org/called-safe-place-gods-people.

Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or lgilbert@recordnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.