Monday, November 06, 2000

'Challenges are great,' Anglican prelate says

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Archbishop of Canterbury George L. Carey and Bishop Herbert Thompson Jr. preside.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        The stakes were high for the crowd Sunday at Xavier University's Cintas Center. Rather than cheering for a basketball victory, 10,000 Episcopalians prayed to win over hearts.

        Archbishop of Canterbury George L. Carey coached members of the Diocese of Southern Ohio to spread the good news of God. The spiritual leader of 70 million Anglicans worldwide challenged the group to quadruple local membership by 2005, a goal set by the diocese's bishop, the Right Rev. Herbert Thompson Jr.

        The future of the church pivots on the success of Christ's followers in sharing their faith, the archbishop said.

        “Our challenges are great,” he preached in the sermon. “But the potential resources are greater than that. He who commands us to go will come with us.”

        The service was a pep rally of sorts, aiming to energize and encourage members to step outside their comfort levels and become evangelists. The event coincided with the 125th anniversary of the diocese and was the first time all 83 churches had been invited to come together.

        Sonorous organ notes filled the gym-turned-sanctuary. Choirs dipped into gos pel songs and belted out traditional hymns. Kids wore “Share It and Shine” yellow foam hats.

        Instead of $2.50 hot dogs and $4.50 beers, church members ate bananas and apples and ordered orange juice or coffee.

        Under the Diet Coke and Hillshire Farm ads on the scoreboard flashed pictures of local Episcopal churches. Priests wore robes and held walkie-talkies.

        At center court was a brass and wooden baptismal font.

        As the service began, 400 people streamed onto the floor, hoisting church banners, waving streamers and bearing crosses. Archbishop Carey wore a gold robe, and Bishop Thompson carried his 6-foot bishop's staff.

        The service followed traditional Episcopal liturgy. People recited prayers together and sang hymns. They shook hands and whispered, “Peace of the Lord be with you.”

        Church members climbed the gym steps to receive Communion from more than 100 priests and deacons. Teen-agers from area churches traced the sign of the cross with anointing oil on the foreheads of followers.

        Kim Gibbons of West Chester Township brought 5-year-old daughter Meghan to the service.

        “It's important for her to see other people within the same faith come together,” Ms. Gibbons said.

        Jeffrey Beamon, 12, and Christian Staples, 9, learned of unity via the Internet. They visited a cyber cafe set up to connect church members with other Episcopal parishes throughout the world.

        Jeffrey read the history of the Anglican church. Christian searched for other churches that shared the same name as the one he attends, St. Andrew's in Evans ton.

        He found one, in Framingham, Mass.

        “I don't even know where that is,” Christian said.

        And then he began reading about his spiritual brothers and sisters from another state.

        Sister Rachel Margaret had never met the Archbishop of Canterbury before this weekend. His presence at the service “makes me aware of being a part of the whole church, the whole world communion,” said the 15-year member of the Episcopal order Community of the Transfiguration in Glendale.

        Growing the diocese from 27,000 to 100,000 in four years is an ambitious plan, she conceded.

        “But all things are possible with God,” she said. “That's what the church is about, bringing the word of the Gospel to the world.”


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