DELAWARE: Convention focuses on the gifts of chaplains

April 25, 2007

The 222nd meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware's annual convention opened in silence and prayer for the victims of the April 16 shootings at Virginian Polytechnic Institute and State University, and for all young people.

The theme of the two-day convention, hosted by St. Peter's in Smyrna, was "There Are a Variety of Gifts," and focused on gifts offered to the church by chaplains -- in schools and universities, hospitals, prisons, and the armed forces. Chaplains who serve all those institutions, most of them diocesan clergy, led convention worship and workshops.

Bishop Wayne Wright welcomed George Packard, Bishop Suffragan for Chaplaincies, as the evening speaker on April 20. Packard said that more than 1,000 Episcopal chaplains "take the love and compassion of Christ into some very difficult places" as companions in suffering, trauma, and times of terror. "Chaplaincy is practiced by all Christians, just practiced more intentionally by some than others," Packard said, asking "how much chaplain is in you?"

Then, challenging Convention by noting the huge prison population in the state of Delaware, he asked, "Where have we yet to see Christ in Delaware?" Packard suggested that Delaware Episcopalians need "acuity, sensitivity and wise eyes" in order to minister to the suffering of their incarcerated brothers and sisters. Packard's final challenge was: "Will we have the resources of character to accept the challenges set before us?"

Wright reiterated this challenge in his address during Eucharist the next day. He reminded Convention of the Apostle Paul's challenge to proclaim resurrection power to the world through many gifts. When that is done, "faith in Jesus Christ changes lives, transforms communities of people, and renews the face of the earth," Wright said.

He commended the work of chaplains who bear the gospel "into the chaos and violence of war," serve "so many forgotten men and women in Delaware's too-crowded prisons -- too many in one small state," and bring Christ's love and presence to hospitals and hospices. In light of the Virginia Tech tragedy, Wright also blessed chaplains in schools and universities who both share faith with young men and women, and minister "in times of unspeakable horror and sadness."

Wright praised the diocese for what he called its thoughtful, prayerful discussions and consensus around current issues of inclusion and welcome in the church. He noted these issues have been discussed through three episcopates, and emphasized "there is a place for everyone at our common table."

In business sessions, the diocese welcomed Good Shepherd in Glasgow as an official mission. Led by church planter and vicar the Rev. Jay Angerer, most of the new congregation, including babies, processed joyfully to the front. Angerer told Convention that this young mission has already raised up its first person for ordained ministry.

Two other signs of diocesan growth were a goal to establish "a cohesive diocesan youth ministry" with a commitment to hiring a full-time diocesan director of youth ministry and the new diaconal ministry, as represented by the nine permanent diaconate inquirers who were introduced.

Resolutions passed by Convention included ones to:

* commend the statement from the Anglican delegates to the United Nations 51st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW);
* commit to embrace Millennium Development Goals;
* commit to an awareness program of HIV/AIDS in Delaware;
* affirm the 75th General Convention's resolutions on slavery and reconciliation (Resolution A123 and Resolution A127), and
* urge Delaware's General Assembly to repeal state mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws.

The Diocese of Delaware comprises about 12,000 Episcopalians worshipping in 35 congregations.