By The Rev. Gigi Conner
St. Alban’s, St. Pete Beach
SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the Presiding Bishop opened her sermon with the words “Talitha cumi. Girl Get up! You’re not dead yet.” She was referring to The Episcopal Church, but for many who had just come from the Episcopal Women’s Caucus breakfast, it was heard as affirmation that this group of ‘troublemakers’ (a term used by Sarah Eagle Heart, the keynote speaker at the breakfast), was not only alive and well but the focus of the Caucus is needed as much as ever.
The Caucus breakfast has been held at every convention since 1982. On this Sunday morning, as the room began to fill, the energy of the conversations amongst strangers, new friends, and old acquaintances, was exhilarating.
The opening prayer, offered by L. Zoe Cole (Deputy, Diocese of Colorado), reminded the gathering of the power of believing we are capable of being change agents in the world today.
Convener, Terri C. Pilarski (rector of Christ Church, Dearborn) welcomed those present by giving thanks for the courage of the Supreme Court around the issues of Health Care and Marriage equality, and for the wisdom of the Episcopal Church to be open to doing God’s will through the power of a vote in electing The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry to be our next Presiding Bishop.
Dr. Fredrica Thompsett was introduced by board member Gigi Conner (Priest in charge, St. Alban’s Church, St. Pete Beach, Fl) and was given the Mary Magdalene Award. Fredrica spoke of the need of all (especially women) to know the history of women in the church, because only by knowing and appreciating those who came before us, can we really look forward and then move into the future.
The Rev. Babs M. Meairs (Diocese of of San Diego) introduced The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, who received the Joseph award. Steven reminded the gathering that in his tradition the women were considered to be doctors – healers in the community. He also said that when change happens, most often people can become fearful and act out of that fear.
Terri the introduced the Keynote Speaker, Sarah Eagle Heart, missioner for indigenous ministries for the Episcopal Church. Sarah and her twin sister were ‘troublemakers’ according to those who did not like the fact that they were protesting against a tradition that denigrated young women and belittled their spirituality. This call to stand up for what is just led her to her current position. She told her listeners that the Native tribes often mistrusted ‘the church’ and that when she was named one of 40 emerging American Indian Leaders by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, it was more than an honor for her – it was also a recognition, affirmation, and show of trust in the Episcopal Church which has begun the work of reconciliation and healing by repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery.’ As we face into the shame of this particular part of our history, we do it with Christ by our side. Sarah was presented with a handmade shawl by a member of the Caucus board. All three were given standing ovations.
The Presiding Bishop, who was able to attend for a brief time, was also given a standing ovation of thanks for her remarkable service as Presiding Bishop. She and her husband Richard were given tote bags with Caucus swag (her husband’s had a tee shirt that said ‘a woman’s place is in the house of bishops.)”
What impressed the Board the most was the continual offering of thanks to the Caucus for its ministry of justice work. Also included in those offerings were statements about the continuing need for women clergy to receive parity in pay, more women in the House of Bishops, mentoring for younger women, and how to prepare congregations to be open to hiring women.
Editor’s Note: Eight from Southwest Florida, including The Rev. Gigi Conner, attended the breakfast on June 29, 2015.