I recently joined other Episcopal parishioners from across Europe for the Convocation’s annual Academy of Parish Leadership. This year, lay, deacon and priest alike were invited to spend a weekend together in Augsburg in prayer and reflection on the theme of holiness, which our facilitators from Virginia Theological Seminary called “the quest to give and receive love.” We talked about holiness and the liturgy, holiness in the habit of the priesthood, and holiness and the call to service in the Gospel of Luke. I enjoyed deepening the relationships across the Convocation that I had begun to develop at last fall’s Convention and at Bishop Mark Eddington’s Consecration in April. I feel close to the pilgrim heart of this community; they have much to over the wider Church.
I was delighted to see our Italian congregations there in force, both the mission parish of Gesù Buon Pastore in Milan and the ecumenical Christiana Fraternitas community in Taranto. While we engaged mostly in English, the organizers worked hard to make our Italian sisters and brothers feel at home, and they reciprocated by leading several of our worship services primarily in Italian.
A major takeaway for me was the section on holiness in the habit of the priesthood. I learned there had been an interesting planning discussion that led to an emphasis on this being about the priesthood of all believers (see, e.g., 1 Peter 2:4-6). We talked about the priesthood as a holy community called to be pastors to each other, to witness and invite others into the Good News, how as priests we are married to the church and God’s mission, and how we live it all through our beautifully broken vows. There is an order of priests whose tasks are laid out in the Examination found on p. 531 of the Book of Common Prayer. And while that Examination excites my heart and animates my call, the call to holiness is first and foremost found in the priesthood of all believers ordained by our baptism. What better place for exploring this than Augsburg?