The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings is President of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies.
The first time I went to an Episcopal church, I was about seven years old visiting my grandparents in Oyster Bay, New York. I attended the Easter service with my family at my grandparents’ church and allegedly I turned to my mother and said “Now, this is church.”
That was the beginning of my life-long journey: I continued to attend various parishes in my youth, became a religion major in college, and was confirmed in the Episcopal Church as a young adult while attending seminary at Episcopal Divinity School. My mother, who was a devout Episcopalian, was also a big influence on me. She had wanted to become a deaconess, but at the time in the 1940’s deaconesses were not allowed to be married, and she wanted to marry my father. I’m glad she did!
When I started a trial year at seminary in 1974, a brave group of women called the Philadelphia 11 had just been ordained, despite the fact that the Episcopal Church did not yet permit the ordination of women to the priesthood. Two years later, at the beginning of my senior year in seminary, General Convention voted to make a canonical change that opened the priesthood and the episcopate to women. I was there to witness the vote, which gave me new hope for the future and inclusiveness of The Episcopal Church.
In 2015, I experienced that same sense of hope at General Convention when I was privileged to preside over the House of Deputies’ vote for marriage equality in the Episcopal Church. I am proud that our church is committed to justice and liberation of all people, and that we offer a way of being Christian that is focused on Jesus’ command to care for the poor and the marginalized. As I travel across the church, I see this commitment being made real in many ways in many places, just as I see it at home in Ohio, where my small parish is striving to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus in the world.
At the churchwide level, the Episcopal Church is called to provide tools and resources to help every Episcopalian witness and advocate for the dignity of all of God’s children. The reason I give to the Annual Appeal is that it can help make our prayers real as we take action to dismantle systemic racism and misogyny, as we advocate for sensible gun safety legislation, and as we demand the humane treatment of everyone who seeks refuge in this country.
By supporting initiatives that provide hope, I give back to God a portion of the abundance I've received. I’ve been truly blessed by The Episcopal Church, and I want to be a blessing in return. That’s why I support the Annual Appeal.