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May 31, 2018

General Convention Worship Promises Transformational Experience

Daily worship at General Convention is a high point for deputies, bishops and visitors. To gather with several thousand fellow Episcopalians and experience a wide range of worship styles used throughout the Church is a profound experience.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gathered people from Tennessee, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and representatives from his office and the General Convention Office along with the head verger from Washington National Cathedral to make sure his vision was realized. He had two specific directions for the team: that the texts are authorized by the General Convention; and that the liturgies represent the beautiful diversity of the Episcopal Church in all of its many cultures and languages.

The liturgy team in turn, reached out to more than 30 different groups, including ethnic missioners, to get feedback and advice on music, preachers and participants. They committed to incorporating as much as possible in the final planning, according to the Rev. Patrick Miller, rector of St. Mark’s, Houston, a member of the team.

The 2018 liturgies reflect what we learned,” Miller said. “Our many cultures and languages will be apparent throughout all the liturgies.” Additionally, the Eucharistic Prayer from the Misa de los Inmigrantes will be used in the Racial Reconciliation liturgy. This is used throughout Province IX and in Spanish-speaking Episcopal Churches. Some Gwich’in translations, sponsored by the United Thank Offering, will be included. Gwich’in is spoken by Episcopalians in the interior of Alaska. And, for the first time, every liturgy will be available in Spanish and French.

Music is no exception. “The Presiding Bishop was deeply moved by the diversity and excellence of music he heard at St. Augustine’s of Canterbury in Oklahoma City during a visitation” Miller explained.  As a result, St. Augustine’s music director, Scott Chard, serves as chair of the music team.  

Daily worship will be in Exhibit Hall #5 of the Austin Convention Center, and a Revival on July 7 will be held at the Palmer Event Center across the river from the convention center. The challenge was to create a worshipful atmosphere in a cavernous convention space, Miller said.

“With that in mind, the altar will be set in the middle of the people, and the congregation of 3000 will be surrounded by ten 20-foot high specially designed ‘windows’ to give the sense of a contained worship space in the exhibit hall. The space for the Liturgy of the Word is set in front of an ancient symbol of the Trinity,” he said.  

“The Palmer Center is a simpler design, since speaking and music are the highlights of the revival. The design is such that it allows movement along a chiastic, or crosswise arrangement, facing a main stage, giving 6000 people a sense of access to the speaker,” Miller explained.

“We spent many hours discerning ideas and concepts that will help glorify God and God’s people through movement, music, language and liturgical expression,” Miller said. “I hope everyone who is able will come and enjoy the spaces set aside for prayer and revival as the church gathers once again in convention.”

All worship services take place at the Austin Convention center (except Saturday, July 7, at the Palmer Events Center).

Thursday, July 5     Opening Eucharist     9:30-10:45am
Friday, July 6          Daily Eucharist           5:45-7:00pm
Saturday, July 7      Episcopal Revival       5:30-7:00pm (Palmer Center)
Sunday, July 8        Simple Eucharist       10:30-11:45am
Sunday, July 8        Worship in Local Churches
Monday, July 9       Daily Eucharist          5:15-6:30pm
Tuesday, July 10     Daily Eucharist          5:15-6:30pm
Wed., July 11 .       Daily Eucharist          5:15-6:30pm
Thursday, July 12    Closing Eucharist      7:30-9:00pm

Members of the team include: the Rev. Canon Michael Hunn, Canon to Bishop Curry; the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of the General Convention; the Rev. Sandy Webb, rector, Church of the Holy Communion, Memphis, TN; the Rev. Mary Kate Rejouis, rector of St. Aidan’s, Boulder, CO; Dr. Torrence Thomas, Head Verger at the Washington National Cathedral; Scott Chard, Praise Chorus Leader, St. Augustine’s of Canterbury, Oklahoma City, OK; Jean Fuller, Organist, St. Matthew’s, Austin; Lori Ionnitiu, General Convention Manager; and the Rev. Patrick Miller, rector, St. Mark’s, Houston.