Episcopal revival — those are two words that historically have occupied different precincts of the church-news page.
But the top leader of the Episcopal Church plans to bring them together during a packed weekend of activities in Pittsburgh.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who was elected in 2015 to lead the national church, plans a weekend aimed at working to heal racial and denominational divisions while also stoking an enthusiasm for evangelism. All this is aimed at an audience better known for formal liturgy within its Gothic walls and a reluctance to talk too loudly about it outside of them.
The diocese had originally contacted Bishop Curry in 2015, when he was leader of the Diocese of North Carolina, to speak here in 2016 at the annual Absalom Jones Day Celebration, which marks the ordination of the first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church in 1804.
But later in 2015, Bishop Curry was elected to lead the national church, the first African-American to become presiding bishop. His calendar suddenly crowded with other obligations, he postponed the visit a year while adding several other weekend events to it.
The bishop “expressed hope we would be able to expand this” with a focus on “rekindling evangelism and racial reconciliation,” said Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Bishop Curry will take part in a “Service of Repentance and Reconciliation” at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Hicks Memorial Chapel on Friday night, bringing together local leaders from various racial and church groups.
He’ll also take part in a panel discussion on bridging these divides on Saturday afternoon at the seminary.
“Historically, churches have been instruments of division not unity,” said Bishop McConnell. “God is not going to heal a divided world through a divided church.”
On Saturday morning, Bishop Curry mark Absalom Jones Day with a youth gathering and communion service at Holy Cross Church in Homewood.
And on Sunday, he’ll preach at Calvary Church in East Liberty before going to a communion service at St. Stephen’s Church in McKeesport.
At each event, “we’re hoping it will be a place where people can bring their unchurched friends,” said Bishop McConnell.
A big part of the events will be encouraging people to speak up about their faith, said Bishop McConnell.
“Episcopalians culturally are not comfortable evangelizing,” he said. “Learning how to tell the story of how Jesus has changed your life is something we need some schooling in.”