The whirlwind of emotion that was this weekend reached its absolute epoch on Friday afternoon with the election of our incoming Presiding Bishop. As I said often in the last two months since the candidates’ names were released, I happen to know three of the four candidates personally (one was my childhood rector, one is my current bishop, and one was on the board of my seminary). Beginning at 11:15am I sat in the first row of the gallery of the House of Deputies to see the proceedings.
Over the next few hours, suspense built on top of suspense as the bishops prayed, discussed and voted privately a few blocks away. The Deputies passed the time by celebrating their 230th anniversary and debating on a resolution until notice came that the bishops had made their decision. Lunchtime was approaching but in a quite uncommon move, the deputies fiercely pushed to suspend their lunch break until the election was confirmed. While the Committee on the Confirmation of the Presiding Bishop retired to another room to deliberate, the Deputies returned to some time-passing legislation for what seemed to many of us observers to be an eternity, especially as our stomachs growled and our hearts pounded mercilessly.
Then it happened. Before a standing room only crowd, House of Deputies president Gay Jennings announced that the committee had confirmed the Bishops’ election of the Rt. Rev…(drumroll please)…… Michael Bruce Curry of North Carolina! All who were able leapt to our feet, cheered, hugged, applauded, and I for one certainly cried!
I’ve known Bishop Curry for 22 years, since long before he was a bishop! In 1993 my parents and I moved to Baltimore and joined St. James Episcopal Church, of which he was the young firebrand rector. Michael Curry was the first priest I ever strongly remember, and I had the enormous honor to hear his world-renowned preaching virtually every Sunday of my childhood. When he was elected Bishop of North Carolina in 2000, I learned for the first time what the phrase “the Rt. Rev.” meant. I was present on the day he was consecrated, June 17, 2000 – a day I will never forget – at Duke University Chapel in Durham. The Bishop’s family and mine have kept close touch over the years, and I remain close with his daughters, who are around my age.
Just two hours before the election, I ran into Bishop Curry as the worship service was about to begin, and friends were taking selfies with him to mark the occasion of his potential election. I came up to him with camera phone in hand and immediately he jubilantly introduced me to the North Carolinians around him, saying “This guy was my parishioner back at St. James in Baltimore when he was a little boy! He just graduated from Yale Divinity!” He even told me he was proud of me and I had the pleasure to introduce him to three of our EPF Young Adult Fellows! As we all took some celebratory selfies, a few of his fellow bishops came up for selfie time too!
I’m so completely blessed and honored to know this incredible man of God, and I can’t wait to see how his incredible witness will continue to grow and strengthen our Church.