As a young woman graduating from high school in Pittsburgh, Pa in the 1990s I was blissfully unaware that other Episcopalians were not like me. But more than that I was under the impression that it didn’t matter. God never once asked me to question sexuality, race, gender, or politics. It has been said, “there are no atheists in a fox hole” and make no mistake, what felt like the death of an entire generation was a war.
I belonged to a faith group which ministered to those affected by the ever growing AIDS epidemic. People were suffering, and it was our job to care for them. Men, women, and children died. Some of them in my arms; many of them due to a fearful and willful ignorance which had been foisted upon Americans about this horrible disease.
I fed one dying man as I sat in a room full of quilts he had made, completing the squares of others which would eventually become woven into a massive tangible memorial comforter, binding us together as a humanity in sin and in need. As we discussed the Steelers’ chances, and he talked about his artwork, he talked about the pain and suffering of separation from humanity. So many people in those days were afraid of even being near someone with AIDS. I held his cup as he sipped from a straw and I prayed with him for reconciliation. It wasn’t wine, I was not a lay eucharistic minister, but that meal has always in my mind felt like a sacrament.
Sin, is the act of separation from God. And whether you act to separate yourself or act in such a way that you trespass on other’s journey to reconciliation, we are all sinners. I am, you are. The Primates of the Anglican Communion are. The most important lesson I ever learned at the Eucharist was that God desires reconciliation, God desires us to be there for one another, pray for one another, share in his creation, and be in communion through the Eucharist.
“This is my body, which is given for you.”
In the years that followed my time there, Pittsburgh became the battleground of a contentious split of the Episcopal Church into the ACNA and the TEC. Today we sit at the precipice of a larger split in the Worldwide Anglican Communion.
There are real problems in this world. But when God walked among us he never shrank from the Humanity of us. He embraced us brothers, sisters, sinners all. He actively sought the company of the disenfranchised, and they often saw his grace more clearly than those bogged down by opinion, tradition and law. Today when I serve as a chalice bearer I share with you and pray words over you and share in the process of reconciliation.
So, forgive me dear friends for whom and with whom I have prayed and broken bread and shared wine in the sacrament of his body and blood if I don’t understand. I don’t understand in the least how we come to a place where our differences seem more important to the Primates than our communion. I don’t understand the dilemma. I didn’t understand it in Pittsburgh when it began, I don’t understand it now.
And I pray that the voice of God can be heard in the Din.