Guided by the theme, "The World in Christ," delegates to the 134th Convention of the Diocese of Southern Ohio spent November 7-8 exploring how to make the love of Christ known to the world.
In addition to the traditional actions of convention -- from passing resolutions and the budget to fellowship and Bible study -- delegates spent a morning in mission. When the deacon entreated the congregation to "love and serve the world" at the convention Eucharist on November 8, the congregation divided into about 20 groups and spent two hours in mission projects.
"To be the church is to go out into the world, to express our faith and respond to Christ's love through action," said the Rev. Lee Anne Reat, vicar of St. John's, Columbus and the coordinator of the mission activities. "Along with the worship and business that make up convention, I think that the mission activities made visible who and what we are as the church."
The mission activities included options for a variety of skills and interests. Some delegates cooked meals for street church programs operated by two Columbus congregations. Others packed bags to be handed out to the homeless that included necessities such as candles, toilet paper and toothbrushes.
Nathan and Mari Grace Smith, delegates from All Saints, Portsmouth, stuffed socks with candy in preparation for a visit from St. Nicholas to disadvantaged children in Columbus. They also discussed child poverty issues, including health care.
"I chose to attend the session because I am a teacher and a new mother," said Mari Grace Smith. "Not only was it an enlightening experience to learn about the healthcare crisis of so many of God's children, but also it was an enriching experience because it forced me to reflect on what I could do as an individual and what we could do as Episcopalians to help make a greater impact on the lives of children."
Youth of the diocese joined delegates in a simulation of life on the streets, having to navigate the bus systems, public assistance and shelters and finding ways to make money. Other mission activities included knitting prayer shawls, conducting an energy audit at a local church, exploring advocacy technique for public policy issues and sharing new ways to engage young adults in campus ministry.
The convention's outward focus was reinforced by addresses from Lutheran Bishop Cal Hollway of the Southern Ohio Synod and Bishop Charles Jenkins of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. Both bishops called upon the people of Southern Ohio to continue to look beyond their own doors and forge relationships with those in need, such as in the Gulf Coast, and those in other denominations and faiths.
In his convention address, Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas E. Breidenthal acknowledged the fear and anxiety of an uncertain economy and the transition in national leadership. "I am not worried about the church. We thrive when hardship forces us to remember who we are: a community that models acceptance without passing any kind of test, and emanates a steady and calm trust in God when the rest of the world is panicking," he said. "This is the gift we can bring and should bring to the communities that surround us, rooted, as we are, in the knowledge of God's love for us in Christ, our crucified and risen Lord."
Delegates passed seven of eight proposed resolutions, including measures calling for a commitment to local food resources, a Sunday offering for Episcopal Relief and Development, and principles for just and fair health insurance. In addition, delegates approved a $4.05 million budget for 2009, which included the full asking to the Episcopal Church of nearly $800,000.
All actions of convention and Breidenthal's convention address are available here.