Grace Cathedral

Grace Cathedral

Article | July 28, 2023

Congregation Update: The Eye Cannot Say to the Hand “I Have No Need of You”

Blog|The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi

Dear Friends,

Save us from all false choices. This sage bidding is included in our prayer for the Bishop Search and Transition process, and borrowed from a Prayer for Guidance in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (p. 832). Its human authors recognize that we are too often captive to mutually exclusive propositions and that asking a good question is as important as defining a good response.

On December 2, 2023, the clergy and lay delegates of the Diocese of California will convene at Grace Cathedral to elect our ninth bishop. The election is actually for a coadjutor, allowing for a time of transition with Bishop Marc, before his retirement. The successor is, among other things, asked to build on Bishop Marc’s leadership in ecological and social justice, and to discern with the congregations and institutions of the diocese as we grapple with the impacts of a post-COVID, inequitably digitized, climate-impacted, and yet grace-filled world.

The forthcoming election generates excitement about possibilities, as well as curiosity about the mechanics of the election, and the significance of the orders and bishops to our Episcopal/Anglican tradition. For today: The faith that has been handed down to us is an ordered faith, understanding the structure of the church to be expressed in distinct charisms and commitments. The largest and most important order — the laity — emerges from the waters of baptism, affirming that each of us is a child of God, charged with an essential faithfulness to the Almighty, the Christian community, and the whole creation.

Those whose Church expectations were formed in a small parish, or in another Christian tradition, might next think of a priest, pastor, or senior minister. In a practical sense, if they were the only staff cleric, that person may have been the principal preacher, teacher, minister of the sacraments, or decision maker. If they had a long tenure, they may have had an outsize influence on the community’s understanding of orders — the community may or may not have had the sustained presence of a deacon or bishop, or a fulsome sense of the authority given to the laity at baptism.

The aspiration of an Episcopal cathedral is quite different: my fervent hope is that by being part of this worshipping assembly, by encountering a variety of priests and deacons in their roles, and by praying with Bishop Marc and perhaps being confirmed, or hearing him pronounce God’s forgiveness or blessing, you are building a nuanced and composite image of what it means to be an ordained minister for the church. You know that each of us expresses a call with a different accent or emphasis, and, I hope, that those accents speak to the depth and breadth of Christ’s body.

In his First Letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes: “Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body…If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? … But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.'” (NRSVue 12:14-21, excerpted) “Save us from all false choices,” the prayer continues, “that in your light we may see light, and on your path, may not stumble.” How many muscles and organs it takes to walk without stumbling?

We are approaching the program year, where the cathedral will have a significant role in the sequence of events leading to the election (December 2), ordination and consecration (May 4), and eventual seating (date tbd) of that bishop. There will be times of intentional preparation and reflection for the election, which will be planned in August. We will host a meet and greet with the final slate of candidates (November 2, evening). And most importantly, we will continue to pray for the process, for Bishop Marc and Sheila as they continue to love and serve the people of this cathedral and diocese, and for the sign that we are all called to be as Christ’s body, mutually dependent, broken and poured for the world.

Every good gift,

The Rev. Canon Anna E. Rossi
Canon Precentor
Director of Interfaith Engagement

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