Episcopal bishop calls for uniting of a house divided
February 3, 2017 9:29 PM
Deborah Benton, left, of the South Hills and Ruth Green of Scotland pray together during a service of Repentance and Reconciliation on Friday at Hicks Chapel at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Highland Park. The prayer service was led by 12 senior pastors and bishops from local Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry speaks Friday at the service of Repentance and Reconciliation on Friday at Hicks Chapel at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Highland Park, part of the weekend-long “Pilgrimage for Reconciliation, Healing and Evangelism in Southwestern Pennsylvania.”
Members of the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church choir sing a hymn during the service.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry jokingly said numerous times as he spoke, “This is a reflection, not a sermon.”
By Peter Smith / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The sparse, pillared sanctuary reverberated with gospel music, then with the somber declarations of a searing confession of sin dating to 17th century Scotland — all to confront 21st century divisions of race, creed, gender and class.
Hundreds gathered at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for a Friday night service aimed at starting to heal those divisions, bringing together a racially diverse mix of local bishops and other leaders of area Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches.
The event was held in conjunction with the start of a three-day visit by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church — elected in 2015 as the first African-American to lead the national denomination.
More than 200 gathered at Hicks Memorial Chapel at the Highland Park campus, with church leaders sitting in a circle around a table symbolically set with a communion cup and plate.
“We are mindful that we are a house divided, by race and class and denomination,” said the Rev. Liddy Barlow, executive minister for Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, an ecumenical organization of more than two dozen area denominational groups. “God will not heal a divided world through a divided church.”
Members of the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church choir sang rousing, call-and-response anthems.
Members of the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church choir sing a hymn during the service.(Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)
Other parts of the service took on a more sober cast.
Clergy took turns reading from a Church of Scotland’s Ministerial Challenge of 1671, a lengthy, forensic lament of sins that preachers are prone to, from a desire to impress listeners with eloquence to a fear of telling hard truths to friends and foes.
Bishop Curry began his remarks by saying he was here to lead an “Episcopal revival,” drawing the expected laughter at two words that seldom find themselves next to each other.
He made a strong case for it, though, with a rousing, animated talk rarely associated with the more formal oratory typically associated with his denomination.
He made a brief but clear reference to the nation’s current political tumult, alluding to his arrival here from Washington, D.C.
He said reconciliation needs not only be between racial, ethnic and religious groups but between “red folk and blue folk.”
The aim, he said, is to follow a divine call to become “more than the human race but to become the human family of God.”
Accompanied by the choir’s drums and keyboards, his crescendo was a call to “recommit ourselves this night, in this cultural moment, to be people who follow the way of Jesus, people of love, people of goodness.”
As attendees rose to their feet, he said any social policy or legislation “must be based on love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Bishop Curry will be back at the seminary at 3 p.m. today for a panel discussion on bridging divides and healing communities, along with Mayor Bill Peduto and others. The bishop will also lead worship and other activities at Episcopal churches this morning and Sunday morning.
Peter Smith: email@example.com or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.
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