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There's a meetin' there, in a tent, to set down Episcopalian tenets
The Sun Herald ^ | 8/19/2005 | Kat Bergeron

Posted on 08/20/2005 8:48:08 AM PDT by sionnsar

Tent meetings are not the traditional culture of Episcopalians, but Mississippi's 20,000 Episcopalians are invited Saturday to help break that mold in a state enmeshed in Christian tent revivals.

Bishop Duncan Gray III is holding an all-day tent meeting on the grounds of the Duncan M. Gray Episcopal Camp and Conference Center near Canton and is asking for 20 percent of the average Sunday attendance from each church to come.

The giant tent will hold 1,800, so if that many show up the crowd may overflow into the hot August air. But those inside the tent will be cool, and the thought has Episcopalians chuckling.

"To be true to our Episcopal aesthetics, the tent will be air conditioned with the help of a generator," Gray said with obvious humor during a phone interview from Jackson.

Everything else Gray said about the gathering at the center named for his grandfather - this bishop is the third generation to serve in that office - is serious.

"We made the decision for a tent meeting because in our scriptural tradition the tent was a place of God's presence but it was mobile. It moved and was not stationary like the temple," Gray said. " I like the image of the church being willing to step outside of the steeples.

"The 'tent meeting' has influenced us all in Mississippi, whether Baptist, Methodist, Catholics, all of us have breathed in the ethos of Southern revivalism. This is an acknowledgment of our cultural roots.

"It's also so out of the box of activity for Episcopalians that I thought at the very least it will free us up to think out of the box."

That, simply put, is the purpose of the Saturday tent meeting, a new leadership launching point for Gray after 1½ years of traveling the state to tell congregants about his vision: "One Church in Mission: Inviting, Transforming, Reconciling." Saturday Gray will announce new initiatives he believes "will impact every part of our common life in this diocese." They will not be announced until then.

At General Convention in 2003, Episcopal Church USA approve a New Hampshire diocese's election of a gay bishop, affecting the denomination nationally. Gray said the Mississippi diocesan membership "had a little dip in average Sunday attendance but not substantial" and that pledged income in the new budget has improved since 2003.

"I have turned the bulk of my energy to living out of our tradition in Mississippi and not debating our tradition in the larger church," Gray said.

The tent meeting will be preceded tonight by "Troubling the Waters," a youth event that includes national entertainers and a media crew to record the event for a music CD.

At the meeting

"Everybody from each parish in the Mississippi Diocese is bringing water. At St. Peter's we're taking it from our fish pond in our courtyard and we're bringing it in a bait bucket because we think it is symbolic of who we are as a coastal people. All the water will be brought together in a fountain at the tent meeting to symbolize unity and what happens in baptism as Christians. Water is a cleansing symbol and sign of new life."

- Edward F. O'Connor, rector, St. Peter's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, Gulfport

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 08/20/2005 8:48:08 AM PDT by sionnsar
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To: sionnsar
"It's also so out of the box of activity for Episcopalians that I thought at the very least it will free us up to think out of the box."

I think that the Episcopal church has done too much thinking outside of the box already!

2 posted on 08/21/2005 5:16:32 PM PDT by FOXFANVOX (Freedom is not free.)
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