As many of you are aware, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is Katharine Jefferts Schori (pictured here), who is doing her best to hold together and lead a faith community split by all kinds of issues, including the question of whether it should have allowed the ordination of an openly gay man as bishop of New Hampshire a few years ago.
Since her election as bishop in 2006, Jefferts Schori has made at least two trips to the Kansas City area. Her last journey here was just a year ago, and I had a chance then to interview her. I wrote about that on the blog in this entry.
This past weekend, she was in town to preach and speak at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kan.
To hear her sermon (well, mostly Anglicans and Catholics call sermons homilies, and they tend to be shorter than the average sermon in my Presbyterian denomination; Jefferts Schori's homily at the first service on Sunday at St. Michael's ran just over 12 minutes) click on this link:
The audio begins just a few seconds into her remarks as she's mentioning Anglicans in various countries around the world.
What I liked about her homily was the emphasis on names. She insisted that it's vital that members of faith communities know each other's name as a way of acknowledging the common humanity of the other person. She noted that often in New Testament stories of Jesus healing people, those healed are not named. But she told a story from the gospel of Mark of someone who was both healed and named -- Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus.
I was thrilled to hear the presiding bishop speaking about my ancestors (I figure Timaeus must be an old relative), though I've always wondered why they couldn't spell our name very well. But the Timaeus name is pronounced just like the Tammeus name -- tuh-MAY-us. (I thanked Jefferts-Schori afterward for dragging in my old relatives to make her point.)
But the point was well taken. When we refer to others just as, say, "my wife" or "my father" without giving them names, it diminishes them, devalues them, making them seem somehow unimportant. In sacred writ, often women's names are left out. It's a sign of how they were valued at the time. An exception is in the book of Job, when Job's three daughters are named at the end of the book.
Taking away names dehumanizes us. It's one reason the Nazis put numbers on the arms of Jews in concentration and death camps.
In the Hebrew tradition, God gives people the power to name animals. It's a way of bringing people into the creative process. And, in small ways, we affirm the reality of someone's life when we bother to know -- and then speak -- his or her name.
* * *
SEEKING COMMON CATHOLIC GROUND
The Vatican has decided to begin reconciliation talks with the Society of Saint Pius X, a breakaway traditionalist group. Nothing wrong with reconciliation efforts, but let's hope Pope Benedict XVI is more careful in this than he was early this year when he revoked the excommunication of one of the society's bishops, a known Holocaust denier.
* * *
NOTE: I'm so tired of the belittling, off-topic, mean, callous, surly comments being left here that -- just for today and as an experiment -- I'm not going to publish any comment that I judge to be insufferable in one of those ways. At the end of the day today, there may be no comments published here at all. And I'll be fine with that. But I hope you will respond by making your comments respectful, kind and on-topic. If they aren't, they will stay unpublished today. Thanks for your help. Bill.