By: Amelia Arthur
Director, Circle of the Beloved, Episcopal Service Corps in Minnesota
On Friday afternoon, I left my husband and kids at the beach and flew to Austin, Texas to spend the weekend at the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
As I waited in the Atlanta airport, I posted to Facebook, “leaving one set of friends and family to meet another in Austin for General Convention’, and as I flew to Austin, I thought a lot about how true those words felt.
Eleven days ago, I was ordained a transitional deacon by Bishop Prior. In preparation for that event, I’ve spent a good amount of time over the last several years thinking and praying about what God, the Church, the world, friends, and family all mean to me.
When I walked into the Convention Center this morning and started to see old friends from different parts of life, I was struck by the sense of connection and belonging that I felt, even with people whom I haven’t seen in years or decades. For me, the Church has always felt like home, and coming to Austin felt like a homecoming of sorts as well.
From the funny teenager who wore overalls, to the youth minister who walked with youth in middle school and high school, to the Episcopal Seminarian at a Lutheran seminary, the Episcopal Church has been a home and constant companion as I’ve grown, discerned, and continue to do both of those things.
My first impression as I entered the convention center was the scale of the whole event.
There are more Episcopalians here than I have ever seen gathered in one place. Like a giant family reunion, we come from all over the United States and from several countries, speak in different languages and have different tastes in clothing.
On the surface it might not be obvious that we are united in any way, or that we have anything in common, and yet here we are, gathered together as The Episcopal Church, as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, as The Body of Christ.
That common connection is what gets me at my core as I move throughout the day. Listening to the debates in the House of Deputies, walking through the giant exhibit areas, and greeting old friends throughout the day gives me a deep sense that these are my people. This is the tribe to which I belong. This is the place where I have been and am known. I hope other people had the same kinds of feelings as they walked into the convention center for the first time, because at our core, that is what the love that we are founded on calls us to; to love without question, to welcome without agenda, to care alike for old and young, rich and poor, to invite everyone to journey with us as we live as the Body of Christ in the world.
At such a divided time in our nation’s history, being at General Convention gives me a glimpse of the Kingdom which is coming, and renewed hope that the Kingdom is also already here. Let’s take it out with us, let’s be the Church, both gathered here in Austin and the Church that lives and moves in the world as a witness to love and the way that Jesus calls us to follow.
Amelia is attending General Convention to advocate for a resolution funding episcopal Service Corps for the next triennial budget cycle.
To find out more about Circle of the Beloved, click here.