Jefferts Schori addresses finding God in the midst of global hardships

Tall, straight-faced, powerful – Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church Katharine Jefferts Schori’s stoical demeanor can be intimidating.

I first met her in April, 2009 at the ordination of Bishop Ian T. Douglas in Hartford. Trying to appear composed and professional in front of the other reporters, I threw out the first question.

“Bishop Schori…,” I began.

She corrected me.

“Jefferts Schori.”

I’ve come to learn that her terse responses aren’t intended to be frosty. Jefferts Schori is all business, and reporters, like myself, need to recognize that.

However, after reading her new book, The Heartbeat of God: Finding the Sacred in the Middle of Everything (Skylight Paths, $21.99),I feel like I’ve come to know a softer side of the bishop.

She writes about the things that we push out of our minds because it’s too thorny to deal with – homelessness, the ordination of women, immigration, homosexuality, broken churches, broken relationships, ecology, health care. She packs a lot into the 210-page book.

She doesn’t just point out the problems plaguing the world – like HIV and AIDS, Jefferts Schori also provides guidance and asks questions that make readers examine their hearts.

“How will you provoke love in this world?,” she asks.

“Bishop Jefferts Schori wrestles – sincerely and fearlessly – with the call of the gospel and with every kind of impediment we have to a vibrant response to that call. Her exploration of the core teachings of Christian texts will challenge and illuminate people far beyond the Episcopal world,” said Connecticut Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener, author of Claiming Earth as Common Ground: The Ecological Crisis through the Lens of Faith.

And Cohen-Kiener is right. Although The Heartbeat of God is geared toward Episcopalians, the book is germane to people of all faiths.  Walking with the poor and ending hunger is everyone’s mandate.

“The work of alleviating physical hunger must be addressed to all of us, and by all of us, beginning with attention to how, why, and what we eat,” Jefferts Schori writes. “If our congregations, or communities, or organizations want to work on hunger, we can start by looking at our own relationships to food.”

File Photo/Tracy Simmons - Creedible.comLater, when addressing the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, she writes, “…harm to one part of the sacred circle of life harms the whole.”

Everything is connected and it’s the entire world’s responsibility to be aware of that connectedness and “find the heartbeat of God” in all that we do. Not an easy task, but perhaps with Jefferts Schori’s words ringing in our ears, we can be cognitive of that union and think twice about how our actions impact other human beings as well as the planet.

Jefferts Schori doesn’t seem so phlegmatic anymore.  She’s saddened by the world just as we are, but her book discloses her patience and endurance and encourages us that together we can overcome adversity.

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