“You look happy,” she said. She was the cashier at Maxi’s Café across from the B gates in the Reno airport. It was Sunday afternoon and I was buying a tuna and caper half sandwich when she said, “You look happy.”
“I am happy,” I said. I was happy. But I was surprised that anyone should say I looked happy, especially at the airport where my usually dour demeanor descends to anxious and morose. But I was so happy that it showed and I knew why. All weekend long, I had been listening to the heartbeat of the Church.
It started as I was “leaving Las Vegas” Thursday afternoon. I’d just finished a speaking engagement on Faith and the Practice of Law at the UNLV Law School. Things were swirling in the diocesan office and among various people in the city. They were scrambling to put together an evangelism booth at the Pure Aloha Festival to be held in the Silverton Casino the following week. We wanted to use this event to publicize our new Filipino/ Pacific Islander ministries which will kick off in January. Ellie was revising the diocesan evangelism brochure to focus on F/ PI evangelism. She was calling our people to find out how to translate Aloha into Tagalog and Igarot. The replies were coming with proposals to add floral designs. She added floral designs. More languages of the Pacific were suggested.
People at different congregations, people who three days ago had never heard of each other, were e mailing back and forth several times a day to coordinate the staffing of our booth which will be open all hours for four days. They were Filipino (Tagalog), Filipino (Igarot), Guamese, Anglo, Cuban, Mexican-American. It was a flurry of trying to do the impossible in too little time. But they were doing it with joy.
Context: we were already in full tilt panic getting ready for convention when Tom Walsh said, “What about the Pure Aloha Festival?” Within a day, we had rented what may be the first evangelism booth in a Las Vegas casino. But, hey, we are the 9th Island. Of course it’s impossible, but what would Eddie Aikau do? (If you don’t know, it’s only because you are not from Hawaii. Google Eddie Aikau). As a thousand bumper stickers say in Hawaii, “Eddie would go for it.”
Arriving in Reno, I drove straight to the Grove for the Empty Bowls Benefit to raise money for the St. Paul’s Community Food Pantry. Donning my “Bishy D” apron, I served bread, cookies, and ice cream. The place was packed. Many beautiful bowls were purchased. I bought one. A film described St. Paul’s efforts to combat hunger in Reno and Sparks. What the St. Paul’s congregation does each week is an incredible level of ministry driven by an inspiring degree of dedication.
Fast forward to Friday morning: I made my way through the line of people waiting to receive food at St. Paul’s, Sparks. Inside, I found Fr. Kirk and his son Cooper who had just come back from a night sleeping on the streets in cardboard boxes. It was an experience of solidarity with the homeless and also another fundraiser. They had sponsors like in a marathon benefit. By acting in solidarity with the homeless, they raised money for ministry to the homeless.
Then it was Saturday night. Off to Carson City (arriving late) for the Bristlecone Mass at the Brewery Arts Center. I swear half the town was there to see St. Peter’s performance of a jazz mass written by one of their own members. It was a composition with profound liturgical theology. It went from the words of institution “Do this in remembrance of me” to a song about Jesus being present as a homeless person pushing his shopping cart in the streets, pulling his coat together against the cold. This Mass understood what the incarnation that happens in the Mass means. It concluded with the eschatological welcome song “Come on in.” Along with music by a top class jazz trio and excellent solos supported by the Sagebrush Chorale, there were dancers (square, ballet, interpretive), mimes, and a juggler. The only place I have seen anything remotely comparable to the Bristlecone Mass is at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This was missional music from a missional church whose Circles of Support program provides a comprehensive array of services to families transitioning from homelessness.
Sunday morning I was at our newest free-standing congregation (the Latino ministries are hosted by existing congregations), St. Catherine’s, Reno. At 9 a.m., they had a Family Eucharist – 25 people present – almost all young parents and their children. They were a lively, joyful group singing “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” At 11, the larger congregation came to support three youngsters for their Confirmation. Among them, it was my privilege to confirm the great grandniece of the Rev. Jean Orr who served Christ Church, Pioche so well, so faithfully, and so long. All three of the confirmands were completely engaged and delighted to take this step in the Christian life.
All the while, the calls and e mails about the Pure Aloha Festival evangelism booth kept flying. The Evangelism Team was burning the candle at both ends to roll out our new evangelism logo which is still top secret in Nevada but Bishop Katharine and the communications people at 815 are cheering loudly and demanding t shirts.
So how was I “listening to the heartbeat of the Church?” Those words are a paraphrase of Philip Newell’s book on Celtic Christianity, Listening to the Heartbeat of God. And they refer to the end of one of Bishop Katharine’s best sermons. At the end she said, “The heartbeat of the Church is ‘mission, mission, mission.’”