Convention planners for the 89th Annual Council of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia correctly anticipated the need for twice the amount of seating as in recent years because of the presence of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Jefferts Schori delivered the keynote address during which she told the gathered 600 clergy, delegates and guests that the Millennium Development Goals are a contemporary extension of Jesus' ministry.
"You and I have the ability to help people realize the vision of God," she said, encouraging all to take steps to help build a reconciled world, including the use of the gift of political action.
"Advocacy is prayer," Jefferts Schori said. "Pester your legislators and keep on bothering them."
While in Roanoke January 24-27, the Presiding Bishop also visited the nearly 300 children, youth and young adults who attended Council-related activities designed just for them. She helped the children bake the communion bread used for the Sunday worship and signed their t-shirts "+Katharine XXVI P.B." During her visit with the youth, she cheerfully donned a hairnet and helped pack some of the 40,000 meals to be sent to fight hunger in the developing world. The youth had spent the past fall raising $9,000 to purchase the meal ingredients through the anti-poverty organization Stop Hunger Now.
The Presiding Bishop's emphasis on MDGs fit with the Council theme: "ONE Bread, ONE Body." The concluding worship service was a U2charist that featured a Rite II liturgy and contemporary music with strong Christian connotations from the rock band U2. During the service, Southwestern Virginia Bishop Neff Powell noted that the diocese had equipped a team to travel to Mexico to build a house for Habitat for Humanity and that effort was a testament to the tremendous amount of diocesan outreach ministry taking place.
Coverage of the U2charist from the Roanoke Times, including an audio slide show, is available here.
In Council business, no amendments were made to the $1.2 million budget that reflected a new 0.8% line item for MDGs and was an overall 8% increase over the 2007 budget.
Resolutions passed with little discussion and included action that:
- called on Congress to pass the Indian Health Care Improvement Act amendments for improved access to health care among Native Americans;
- called on all parishes in the diocese to create disaster-preparedness plans;
- asked diocesan financial leaders to take steps toward divestment in corporations that support genocide in Darfur.
Council also passed a long-range plan and Powell called for exploration of the viability of a capital campaign in his address to Council.
The text of Powell's address is available here.
The Diocese of Southwestern Virginia is composed of 12,000 Episcopalians in 57 parishes.