Before meeting with clergy from across the Spokane region on Friday Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry pulled out his iPhone to search for a poster.
It shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus and reads, “In the name of these refugees, aid all refugees.”
The 1938 poster is being reprinted and sold by Episcopal Migration Ministries, an organization Curry hopes the church can do more to support.
“This is America, where the bell of freedom rings; freedom for those who have been oppressed in other places, freedom for those who have been down trodden because of lack of food, or war. That’s America at its best and at its greatest, so we’ve got to help America become America again and reclaim our deepest heritage,” he said.
Curry said this on the eve of the ordination of Spokane’s next Episcopal bishop, the Rev. Gretchen Rehberg, and the day after anti-immigrant fliers were plastered around downtown Spokane.
Curry said now is the time for people of faith and goodwill to come together.
“It’s important for us to affirm the good and not let that which is evil dominate,” he said. “And we have to do it in a public way so everyone sees it and realizes hatred does not rule. It only takes a few people to make that kind of negative noise, but it can make a loud noise and it’s important for us not to be deceived into thinking that’s actually what American people think. It’s what a few think.”
He said human compassion is the bridge that can link Americans together, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. Episcopalians, he added, can lead the way by living and serving as Jesus did.
Living out Jesus’ message is something Rehberg, who will be the diocese’ first female bishop, is passionate about and speaks of often.
“I think we live in a time when the words of the church and the words of Jesus are essential. However they’re heard, they need to be heard,” she said in a previous interview.
Curry said he dreams of a Christianity that not only follows the teachings of Jesus, but also emulates how he treated people.
“Imagine, if 2 million Episcopalians were actually empowered and energized and mobilized and set out to actually live lives that looked something like that of Jesus, that’s a game changer. If we got our Methodist brothers and sisters, and our Baptist brothers and sisters and the Roman Catholics, and on and on, we’re talking about changing the world. We’re talking about a Francis of Assisi movement,” he said.
And it’s already happening in Spokane, he added. Bishop James Waggoner has led the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane for 16 years with wisdom and kindness, Curry said, and now Rehberg will carry it forward.
“To see that good, healthy transition is a good thing. This is a happy diocese,” Curry said. “It’s exciting. It gives the church a chance to celebrate”
The ordination and consecration ceremony for Rehberg is tomorrow at 11 a.m. at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. Registration for the ceremony is closed, but the event will be livestreamed at www.spokanediocese.org/digital_faith/live.
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Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.