I have been eavesdropping lately on conversations going on around me in public spaces. Not out of some prurient interest (although I still play Harriet the Spy’s ‘diner game’ from time to time, listening to people behind me and trying to imagine what they look like, then turning around to see if I guessed right.), but out of another kind of curiosity.
Simply this: What ARE people talking about these days anyway?
Well, let me tell you, people are NOT talking about the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson or Rowan Williams. The names Jack Iker or Robert Duncan do not pass their lips. Nor does the name of Katharine Jefferts Schori.
Despite the furor on the blogosphere, or in our Parish Halls, or in our diocesan gatherings, the things that are of such deep and obsessive interest to us are simply not on the radar of the general public.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. While we may be generally known as “the church that’s fighting over gay bishops,” it’s not really at people’s top-of-mind awareness. Which leads me to believe that there is room for us to work, room for us to create an awareness of our denomination that would go beyond the bickering and legal annihilation we practice so enthusiastically.
What if we really COULD get people talking about the Episcopal Church? What if we could overhear folks in coffee shops and supermarkets, on line in the airport or riding on the bus, saying things like:
“You know that school was built by the Episcopal Church for our children … not the rich children, but our children, right here in the barrio.”
“I went on a mission trip to Haiti, and you should see all the things the Episcopal Church is doing in that country … the feeding programs, the sustainability projects, the schools, they even started an orchestra.”
“Well, I know the Episcopal Church will speak up for us against these developers.”
“I have a whole new sense of my purpose in life. I have to tell you about my church and how God has changed me … yes, my church. It’s that Episcopal Church on the corner.”
It’s something to hope for, and something new to strive for. In the meantime, I think it’s helpful to listen. To hear what people care about, are curious about, are enraged about, are tickled about. To hear the voices of people going about their everyday business, chatting about their everyday concerns. That business, those concerns are of deep and abiding interest to the God we serve. Perhaps they are even of more interest to God than the internecine battles of our tiny denomination.
(This also appeared today on Episcopal Cafe.)