Sunday 23 June 2024

Reflections from the Episcopal Church's General Convention in the USA

My Cape Town-Newark-Louisville flights – to attend Bishop Michael Curry's final General Convention as leader of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States – were not bad, viewed against the backdrop of my flights of recent months to places such as Rome and Jerusalem. (Bishop Michael, the Presiding Bishop (PB) of TEC, is of course best known outside his church for his electrifying sermon on love at the marriage of “Harry and Meghan” in 2018.)

On arriving here in Kentucky, I checked into my hotel and took a walk around the surrounds before taking a nap to recover from the journey. We are six hours behind the time in South Africa and I took the opportunity to connect with the family and the office to assure them I had arrived safely.

At 7 pm Kentucky time (1 am my body time!), I attended a big dinner arranged by the Union of Black Episcopalians to honour Bishop Michael. Americans do things on a huge scale!. Most of the lay leaders of the church were known to me as part of family but the Bench of Bishops has changed a lot. (However, retired bishops also attend their General Convention, so I knew a lot of them.)

The PB stressed the importance of rootedness and referred to the forthcoming American elections, in which President Joe Biden will be pitched against former President Donald Trump. Bishop Michael said that “voting is the most powerful non-violent tool each Episcopalian possesses”. He urged every Episcopalian to vote in November. As he faces retirement, he also assured everyone that God will never give up on any of them and urged them too not to give up on the Episcopal Church.

After dinner I retired to what will be my room for the next nine days, had chamomile tea and slept until jet lag woke me up at 4.20 am. I am writing these notes from lying in my bed in Louisville, the home town of  Muhammad Ali.

I listened to a podcast recorded in German, read with deep feelings by the narrator. I did not understand but heard the correct and beautiful way in which she pronounced the “schädel” (skull) of my ancestor, of  Kgoši Makgoba. (We think his skull ended up in Germany after he was decapitated in Makgoba's Kloof in 1895 by forces serving the Transvaal Republic.) I had not planned to reflect on this, but it was a beautiful moment when a German friend sent me a podcast, coinciding with my arrival here.  


Archbishop Thabo

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