House of Deputies president preaches at 81st General Convention’s opening Eucharist

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Jun 23, 2024

House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris preached June 23 during General Convention’s opening Eucharist at the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville. Photo: Frank Logue

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris said in a sermon at General Convention’s opening Eucharist June 23 that “Together in Love,” the theme of the 81st General Convention, “perfectly captures the essence of our shared journey as a diverse community united in the power of Christ’s love.”

About 2,500 people – deputies, bishops, spouses, members of church-affiliated organizations, volunteers and other Episcopalians – gathered for the service on the morning of the official start of business of the 81st General Convention.

A ballroom in the Kentucky International Convention Center was transformed into a worship space with multicolor draping behind a raised altar platform and festive lights across the ceiling.

Aspects of inclusivity were built into the service, with hymns that included verses in both English and Spanish, simultaneous interpretation, and American Sign Language interpreters and gluten-free communion wafers.

Young musicians from St. Peter’s Church in Louisville, Kentucky, along with an “All Y’all” choir of volunteer singers, offered prelude music, assisted by song leaders Sandra Montes, Conie Borchardt and Dent Davidson.

Instrumentalists of the Theodicy Jazz Collective, with the Rev. Andrew Barnett of All Saints, Atlanta, Georgia, as bandleader, accompanied congregational singing.

In her sermon, Ayala Harris noted that people’s hearts today are filled with a mix of joys, hopes and fears, ranging from war and violence around the world to the impending election of a new presiding bishop and the reality of declining church attendance. Jesus offers his followers healing and comfort in times of illness and suffering, as well as leadership and guidance during challenges.

“And when we feel discouraged by the empty pews and dwindling numbers,” she said, “Jesus is there reminding us that the power of his love is not measured by average Sunday attendance but by the transformation of hearts and lives,” a remark that drew applause from worshipers.

Kentucky Bishop Terry White presided at the service that featured an Expansive Language version of Rite II that was authorized for trial use by the 2018 General Convention.

The Prayers of the People were written by Long Island Assistant Bishop Geralyn Wolfe, the former bishop of Rhode Island who was the dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Louisville from 1986 to 1995.

The Eucharist was livestreamed here. A copy of the worship service booklet is available here.

Following the service, both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies met for the first time to begin their work of considering more than 300 resolutions dealing with a variety of topics affecting The Episcopal Church.

—Melodie Woerman is an Episcopal News Service freelance reporter based in Kansas.