Dr. Lisa Kimball (holding certificate)
“When you get right down to it, it’s the only purpose grand enough for a human life: not just to love, but to persist in love.”
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees
This is the fifth reflection in a summer series I’ve entitled To Grow in Love.
In his sermon at the Royal wedding, and every sermon he’s preached before and since, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminds us that sacrificial love has the power to transform lives and heal our world. Yet that kind of love is, by definition, difficult and costly. My question this summer: How do you and I grow in our capacity for such love, perfectly revealed to us in Jesus?
As the General Convention moves toward its conclusion, I’m reminded that growth in love requires perseverance. Among the thousands of Episcopalians gathered, I have seen how the faithful practice of love over time shapes a human heart. Through the ones who persevere, the love of Jesus shines in and through their humanity.
Perseverance is evident in the work of General Convention itself. In the first few days, all engaged in the legislative process felt the enormity and complexity of our task. More than once I wondered how we could possibly work through some of the truly divisive issues before us. But through prayer and perseverance—people showing up in committees, hearings, and late night conversations, supported by countless saints working behind the scenes—the process has moved forward. What seemed impossible one day was accomplished the next. Where we were in danger of falling into old patterns of conflict, a new foundation emerged upon which nearly all could stand.
Even more inspiring have been the quiet examples of persevering love in our midst. On Sunday morning, for example, the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) honored a woman from each diocese for her distinguished life of service. From the Diocese of Washington, Ms. Paula Singleton received well-deserved recognition for the breadth of her ministry. Later in the week, another EDOW lay leader, Dr. Lisa Kimball, was honored for her steadfast commitment to faith formation. Lisa is among the most beloved leaders in our Church because of her faithful, persevering love, and in particular for her mentoring of young people.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Bishop Griselda Delgado / Bishop Griselda Delgado and Bishop Mariann Budde
All at General Convention were moved to tears when the Episcopal Church of Cuba was officially welcomed back home. You see, over 50 years ago, in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, the House of Bishops voted to remove the Episcopal Church of Cuba. Through years of intense persecution, Episcopalian Christians in Cuba quietly persevered. As the political climate in Cuba has grown more accepting of religion, the Episcopal Church has grown in vitality and public witness, guided by the inspired leadership of Bishop Griselda Delgado. This week we were privileged to cast our unanimous vote to receive Cuba back into the Episcopal Church. In her words to the Convention, Bishop Griselda paid tribute to the generations of Cuban Christians who persevered in the hardest of times.
Women Leaders of the Episcopal Church surround Bishop Griselda Delgado
One final example: I attended a worship service to celebrate and mark the end of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus. The Caucus was founded in 1971 by brave, loving and persistent people who believed that women could be called to the priesthood. For more than four decades, the EWC has advocated for women to be priests and bishops. It’s hard to remember now how strongly the Church fought against women’s ordination. Were it not for the fierce and faithful advocacy of the EWC, there would not be women leadership at all levels of the church today. But now, its leaders discerned that it was time for their ministry to end, allowing space for rising generations to find new ways to respond to God’s call. Sometimes perseverance in love means letting go.
To persevere in love is not easy, but those committed to the way of love accept suffering as part of the cost. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “We know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Such is the life of one who is committed to following Jesus. As we follow him, we received grace to grow in our capacity to love and to persevere.
Our Presiding Bishop, whose leadership here at General Convention and beyond is persevering love personified, often encourages with the words of Negro spirituals: “Hold on,” he’ll say, “Stay strong. Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on.”
Jesus is with us, holding us up, leading us on. He’s with you, wherever you are, as you face whatever challenges lie before you. It’s his strength we can lean on; his love that perseveres in and for us.