The Episcopal Church's presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, brought his "Way of Love" message to eastern Massachusetts in the first week of Eastertide, traveling the Diocese of Massachusetts from north to south over the course of four event-filled days of public preaching and gatherings with Episcopal Church ministries, groups and congregations from the Merrimack Valley to Cape Cod.
Curry kicked off his April 26-29 visitation with a high-energy Friday-afternoon stop in Lawrence, spending an hour talking with the middle school girls of tuition-free Esperanza Academy before making a pastoral visit at Grace Church to hear from Merrimack Valley church and community members affected by last September’s natural gas disaster.
In Boston, he gathered at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan with diocesan clergy of color; at Boston University with young adults in their 20s and 30s to hear about the hopes and challenges of their spiritual journeys; and at the Omni Parker House with donors to the diocese's completed Together Now campaign to offer gratitude and encourage support for shared mission priorities.
About 300 middle and high school youth and their adult mentors filled the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston on Saturday afternoon for pizza, music and a wide-ranging Q&A session with Curry. Later, blustery skies gave way to sunshine just in time for the "Way of Love" Rally staged on Boston Common, where a fluid crowd of about 250 people gathered on the slope behind the historic Shaw Memorial to hear Curry preach.
Children and youth of Grace Chapel in Brockton--one of the diocese's newest mission congregations--were lined up in the parking lot to greet him the following morning as he arrived for the festive joint Sunday morning service at First Evangelical Lutheran Church, where Grace Chapel has its home.
Another 400 people filled Grace Church in New Bedford on Sunday afternoon for "Our Episcopal 'Big Tent': How Big Is It?"--a panel conversation among Curry, Bishop Barbara C. Harris, the Anglican Communion's first female bishop, and General Convention House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing. Curry, Harris and Rushing shared experiences of and insights about racism, considered questions of who is on the inside, who is on the outside and who is still on the margins of the church and society, and offered words of Christian challenge and encouragement for these times.
Curry concluded his visit on Monday morning in Brewster, opening the annual diocesan clergy conference with a two-hour conversation session.
All along the way and everywhere, Curry stooped to speak with children, stopped to greet and take selfies with everyone he possibly could and never missed an opportunity to preach what Jesus teaches, which, he said over and over again, comes down to: "Love God, love your neighbor, and while you're at it, love yourself."
"It was a gift that he said 'yes' to this visit, and that he said 'yes' to being available to so many people in so many places: young women growing up in a gateway city; hearing how the church can respond when others didn't following the Merrimack Valley disaster; giving hope to people who feel on the edges of the church; young people who are striving to be the church right now," Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris said following the weekend visit, for which she served as logistical chief.
"Michael Curry is one of the most astute and authentic people I've met, and to experience the kind of leadership that is always pointing us to the power of God's love and justice beyond ourselves, that's a particularly important gift to us in this day and age, and one that he continues to offer all of us because he really believes it," Harris said.
As presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, which comprises 109 dioceses and regional areas in 17 nations, Curry is the church's chief pastor and chief executive officer, sometimes quipping that CEO stands for "Chief Evangelism Officer."
The Episcopal Church has heard Curry preach the message of God's unconditional love since his election to a nine-year term as presiding bishop in July 2015. Last May, his message went global and viral when he preached at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In December 2018, it earned him the title of "religious newsmaker of the year" from the Religion News Association, and this May, the Sandford St. Martin Trustees' broadcasting award.
--Tracy J. Sukraw
Watch video of the "Way of Love" Rally and "Our Episcopal 'Big Tent'" panel program here.
PB&J video link on its way!
Read more coverage:
Episcopal News Service: Presiding bishop joins panel in Massachusetts on Episcopal Church's 'big tent'
Boston Globe: Episcopal bishop brings message of love from royal wedding to Boston
New Bedford Standard Times: Episcopal bishop Michael Curry speaks way of love in New Bedford
Brockton Enterprise: Bishop Michael Curry brings touch of royalty to Brockton church
Lawrence Eagle-Tribune: Bishop Curry meets students, hears gas disaster stories
Rumbo News: El Obispo Curry visita a Esperanza Academy