Convention Homily


(This homily was presented to the Ascension congregation on Sunday, February 25, 2018, by Leah MacSwords, Senior Warden.) 

“One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.”

Yesterday, we were one body in this one Lord when over 200 people gathered at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Winchester for the 122nd Convention of the Diocese of Lexington.  

The Diocese of Lexington’s boundaries encompass the eastern half of Kentucky, from Frankfort on the western border, to the Ohio River along its northern eastern border, the Appalachian counties in the east, and the Tennessee border in the south.  

We are a diocese of big churches and small churches with @ 6,726 faithful Episcopalians from all walks of life, levels of education, and economic status. What we share is our love of Christ and our commitment to his ministry.

The Annual Convention is the gathering that conducts the diocesan business, as we do for our parish each year in January: elections, approval of budgets, committee reports. Not always exciting, but must be done.

The diocese’s 34 congregations were represented by 38 clergy and 111 deputies. There were 43 singers in the convention choir and four musicians from multiple churches. The other attendees were clergy, guests, families, and convention worker bees.

Our congregation was represented by Father Jessee, Deacon Rebecca, Pauline Van Horn, Jim King, Jim Kimbrough, and me. At last year’s convention, we sat in the back of the church.  This year, we had to sit in the front, perhaps so we’d stay quiet and pay attention. We did sit in front of the rowdy bunch from St. Andrews Fort Thomas who kept me entertained. And as usual, it was our Deacon Rebecca who had to corral the altar party at the opening Eucharist. 

Former Bishop Provision Bruce Caldwell served as the presider of the convention, and The Rev. Dr. William Gafkjen (GAH fe en), Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was the convention chaplain and the preacher.

The clear theme of the convention was reconciliation. Bishop Gafkjen reminded us that the love of Christ compels us to be ambassadors of God’s reconciliation, and reconciliation will take us where we don’t want to go, but where we need to go. We must turn toward the power of loving and serving our neighbor.

Bishop Bruce said that healing needs to be undertaken in our diocese. He suggested that we update our leadership model, find ways to share services, value everyone, listen with our hearts, and practice reconciliation. It will be a struggle, he said, but we must sit down and wrestle with our differences.

As I listened to both bishops talk about reconciliation, I realized they meant more than just the work of the diocese. They were pointing us in the directions of reconciliation, doing what God wants us to do, within our own lives, inside our own churches, outside into our communities, and beyond.

On the business side, the budgets approved for 2018 are balanced with a clear sense of fiscal discipline. The diocese was able to save money in 2017 because we didn’t have a bishop. The Cathedral Domain broke even in 2017, and the Domain’s budget will be slightly less in 2018. For details about the budgets, check with Jim Kimbrough who served as chair of the Budget Committee.

From our own parish:

  • Sue Kurtz was recognized as a new postulant seeking to become a deacon. Sue also served yesterday as one of the convention vote-counters.
  • Jack Bates was re-elected to serve on the Disciplinary Committee.
  • Mother Nancy Farley and Shannon Lancaster were elected to serve on the Camps and Conference Board.
  • Fr. Jessee and I were re-elected to serve on the Commission on Ministry.

At this convention, we voted by a chorus of "ayes" to place ourselves under the provisional charge and authority of Bishop Mark Van Koevering. Bishop Van Koevering is a Michigan native. He served in the Peace Corp in Thailand. He was ordained deacon and priest in the Anglican Church of Wales and served churches in Wales and Mozambique before being called as the bishop of the Diocese of Niassa in Mozambique in 2003. Since 2015, he has served as the Assisting Bishop of the Diocese of West Virginia.

The selection of Bishop Van Koevering was described as the “rent to own” option. If we like him and he likes us, after a few years, the diocese can elect to call him as our permanent bishop. This process saves the diocese the tremendous cost of a traditional search for a bishop.

Bishop Van Koevering began his new duties immediately upon adjournment of the convention, and he joined us for our closing worship.

As for my impressions of the day (and these are just mine):

  • It was clear that God was with us as we did the work of convention. No disagreements. No controversy.
  • From the short video of Bishop Van Koevering (I hope he’ll prefer to be called Bishop Mark) and his words of greeting and thanks after his election, I find he has a calming presence. Bishop Bruce described him as the right person at the right time for us, and I agree. He seems a person of great compassion, and his experiences in the Peace Corp and in his ordained ministry have taught him the tools to lead us through reconciliation and hopefully beyond. However, no matter how prepared he is, he will need our prayers, support, and actual involvement.
  • All those voices lifted up in song and prayer filled my heart. This always inspires me to go forth in the name of the Lord.
  • The diocese is in good hands with so many people volunteering their time and talents. We have some wonderful ministries and outreach around the diocese regardless of the size of the congregation.
  • I encourage you to find either of the Jims, Pauline, Fr. Jessee, Deacon Rebecca, or me if you’d like more specific information about the convention.
  • I also encourage you to consider putting forth your name to be nominated for deputy to convention at our annual parish meeting next year.
  • And, finally on behalf of Pauline, Jim, Jim, Jessee, and Rebecca, I thank you wholeheartedly for your prayers and for trusting us to represent you at this year’s convention.

“One bread, one body, one Lord of all, one cup of blessing which we bless. And we, though many, throughout the earth, we are one body in this one Lord.”


Leah MacSwords
Senior Warden

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