[Following is the greeting given by Lisa H. Towle to the House of Deputies on July 1, 2015, in Salt Lake City, shortly after she was elected President of the National ECW.]
My name is Lisa Towle, I am from the Diocese of North Carolina, and a few hours ago I was commissioned as President of the National Episcopal Church Women. It is a great day to be an Episcopalian!
It’s a great day but joy and sadness live side-by-side in me at the moment.
Joy because some 300 Episcopal Church Women found the business of our Church important enough to travel far to attend the ECW’s Triennial Meeting here at General Convention.
Joy because you, the Deputies, have chosen to give your time to find a better way to better our common life.
Joy because standing together we all form a beloved community.
My sadness – and selfishness, I suppose – is that to do the work I’ve been called to do at the national level means I must give up the ECW work I’ve done at the diocesan level for 16 years. And, if that weren’t enough, I will lose my beloved bishop, Michael Curry, to a higher calling.
Life moves on, though, and so do we, to another beginning.
In the case of Episcopal Church Women, Resolution 101/104, co-authored by me in 2012, led to – what else, we are Episcopalians after all – an ad hoc committee whose work was facilitated by consultants. They set about studying the subject of restructuring and recommended, via a lengthy report, ways in which the National ECW Board can help our ministry move forward in a more inclusive, “more excellent way.”
Our delegates accepted this information and, after conversation and debate, gave the Board its marching orders. A large majority of delegates said, in essence, “take the recommendations of the committee, take our traditions, engage in some careful listening, and then help us, the women in parishes and missions, find a new way because it’s a new day.”
All this concern about governance and structure may not exactly be the “Dirty, Sexy Ministry” we hear about on Facebook, but it will, I believe, help get us to where we need to be. And where does our ministry need to be? Well, speaking in the broadest sense, we need to be a place that shows, with words AND actions, how we are inclusive and embracing of all our sisters.
We are headed in the right direction. At our Triennial Meeting just concluded, women aged 20-something to 90-something actively participated in all proceedings. It was a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic assembly. Many of those present were newcomers to Triennial Meeting and General Convention.
It was a gathering that stirred up the spirit. It was Church, in the best use of that word.
Let me tell you another little story about Church, or more to the point, becoming churched. This was shared with me by a dear friend who, knowing I was preparing for events here in Salt Lake City, sought to inspire me with a daily thought or prayer or story..
Once upon a time, group of villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day that had been designated for prayer, all the people of the village gathered. Only one came with an umbrella. That’s faith.
So I say, come, stand under our umbrella. It’s big enough to cover all.
Come, let’s share the faith, and help us serve God’s beloved.
Come, and in the words of the ECW prayer, “join us in making Christ’s love known throughout the world.”
Most importantly, come, Lord. Be among us and remain with us always.
Thank you for sharing your time and for your kind welcome.
Blessings to all.