Like many Anglophiles, I was up before dawn on Saturday to watch the royal wedding. I stayed transfixed to the television through much of the morning, relishing every happy and glorious moment.
And yes, my heart did swell with pride when the Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, delivered the homily. I’ve heard Bishop Curry preach a number of times, and I think he’s one of the best preachers in the world. He always gets the crowds fired up.
FYI, I have a note from Bishop Curry on the bulletin board in my office. He sent it to me a couple of years ago to thank me for my years of service as Jubilee Officer for the Diocese of Colorado. I thought that was extraordinarily gracious on his part, given how busy he must be. It means the world to me, and I keep it there as a reminder of the importance of saying thank you to people, and recognizing the milestones and transitions in others’ lives. A little kindness can go a long way.
As I say, I was not at all surprised that Bishop Curry preached a good sermon. But what hassurprised me is how surprised the rest of the world seems to be. Commentators have gone on at great length about how engaging and impassioned Bishop Curry was, how he invoked civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King, and how stunned some members of the congregation appeared to be while listening to him.
Good heavens, what did they expect? That he would drone on in a monotone, offering a few platitudes and quoting a few Bible verses while the congregation zoned out? That it would be dull and stuffy? That it wouldn’t really be worth listening to?
The fact that it was none of those things seems remarkable to a lot of people. Which begs the question: Is that why so few people come to church these days? Because they assume the service will be stuffy or irrelevant and – unless there are members of the royal family involved - not worth their time?
If so, boy are they in for a surprise! We’ve just gotta get ‘em here so they can see how mistaken they are.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting myself in Bishop Curry’s league when it comes to preaching. Not even close. But here’s the thing: That sermon Bishop Curry preached on Saturday to worldwide acclaim wasn’t even his best sermon. It was just a little wedding homily. You ought to hear him when he really gets going! And he is the ideal to which many Episcopal preachers aspire.
Now let’s talk about church music. Many commentators were delightedly stupefied when they heard the recessional at the royal wedding: “This little light of mine.” May I remind you all that that was our recessional at St. James one Sunday last year? You’ll remember we also did a conga line one Sunday. And I bet you haven’t forgotten the Sunday we piped in “Soul Train.”
I’m not advocating we get carried away. After all, we are still The Episcopal Church. But to me, that just means we do liturgy as beautifully and compellingly as anybody. The Episcopal Church ought to be synonymous with beauty, with glorious music, with ancient prayers; with stateliness and dignity, yes, but also with joy and with spirit-filled preaching that touches people where they are and addresses the very real concerns of modern life.
Stuffy? Boring? Irrelevant? That is sonot the church I know and love. I’m just glad the rest of the world got a glimpse on Saturday of who we really are. Of who we are called to be. Inclusive. Progressive. Joyful. Hospitable. Engaged with the world.
We may not get to host a royal wedding here at St. James, but we do host a royal banquet. Every Sunday. So come and be fed. Bring along a friend who’s skeptical. Let’s keep on defying expectations. As Bishop Curry says, we’re the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. God bless you, and keep the faith!