I have made the joke flippantly in the past, but it really is true—the gathering of Episcopalians from around the world for General Convention is much like the assembling of the Avengers.
We sit surreptitiously in airports, glancing at each other out of the corner of our eyes—is that one of us? Could that be one? Is he? Is she? Just what does that cross necklace signify? We hope the other person will make some blatant identifying move, like bursting into “I sing a song of the saints of God” amid the takeoff.
Mostly, we settle for a silent, quiet head nod of recognition, at most. Bishops remain in mufti, priests and deacons go quietly incognito, sans the collar, because anyone will tell you flying with that piece of plastic is an avenue into the Twilight Zone, and not the fun kind. Lay people peer side-to-side, wondering if that thing you are reading on your iPad is the latest romance novel, or the latest submitted resolution.
The trip here is one of quiet anticipation, as slowly, the numbers of Episcopalians in one place gather until it feels like everywhere you look, there’s a familiar face. There’s someone who knows your heart’s language—whether your spoken language is Spanish, Creole, Dinka, or English.
It’s difficult to describe how this feels. Episcopalians, I think, always feel a bit like pandas out in the world. We know we aren’t many and we know we’re slightly odd creatures, so when we find each other, we get very excited. We’re a little less alone—there’s someone else wandering this world just as we are.
Last night, when I went to find the Salt Palace, there were Episcopal flags flying overhead. For the next little while, here in the heart of Utah, the Episcopal Church won’t be scattered and wandering. It will be collected and celebrating, here in our mountain tabernacle.