By Donna Lewis Johnson
Special to the AFRO
It’s not every Sunday that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Michael B. Curry worships at a parish in D.C. His itinerary places him around the country and the world. But, on the last Sunday in January, Curry was front and center at St. Timothy’s, a majority Black Episcopal church, and then spent the afternoon at the “More Jesus, More Love,” revival at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, both in Southeast, D.C.
“It meant a lot that an important person in my life and in my church actually came to my church all the way in Southeast D.C.,” said teen Shana Jones, who assisted on the altar.
Christians from across the D.M.V. and denominations, gathered at St. Timothy’s to hear Bishop Curry discuss the future of Black and multicultural Episcopal churches in this new decade.
In a conversation moderated by Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s (EDOW) Canon to the Ordinary Paula Clark, Curry answered difficult questions about the challenges that Black and multicultural churches are facing.
“How much time we got [to talk],” he quipped.
Known for his quick wit, powerful evangelism and straightforward preaching style, Bishop Curry cautioned that the Episcopal church, like America, is struggling with its identity.
“We must decide are we what we have been for the last 50 years or so, which is a religious institution in American society, or are we Jesus people,” he said.
The service was a nod to changing times, featuring an extraordinarily upbeat liturgy that included a liturgical dance performance, drums and unscripted amen shouts from congregants. Gone was the recurring kneeling that’s commonplace in Episcopal services.
Also, in lieu of a sermon, Curry sat down with the Canon Clark to talk rather than preach.
Bishop Curry’s conversation at St. Timothy’s was his next to last stop in a three-day weekend, summit and celebration hosted by EDOW commemorating their 125th convention. The whirlwind “More Jesus, More Love,” weekend also included a young adults gathering on Friday, the EDOW convention on Saturday morning and afternoon and a dusk-to-dawn youth overnight.
“More Jesus, More Love” culminated on Sunday afternoon at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, where some 3,300 people showed up for a robust service featuring Curry, EDOW Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, and a diversity of choirs, solo artists and live and video testimonials.
Speaking in both English and Spanish, Bishop Budde, said, “We pray that this afternoon will be one of great joy for you. So take it in. Allow God to speak.”
Inclusion and belonging were the subtexts of the event’s larger theme- the power of love to heal a broken world.
Jason Crighton, a lay Eucharistic minister and vestry member at St. Thomas’ Dupont Circle, revealed, “Being open about my Christianity often feels like a second coming out. It requires being open about where and why I seek Jesus as a gay introverted millennial living in Washington, D.C. in 2020.”
Jennifer Amuzie, a self-described preacher’s kid or “PK,” brought the house down when commenting on her relationship with the Episcopal church.
“The lesson I came away with after growing up in grad school for churchy things and being inside the church every time the doors were open, is that church folks are kind of a mess.
I mean, seriously, nobody needs Jesus more than Christians,” Amuzie said, garnering laughs and cheers.
On cue, Bishop Curry took to the podium on the heels of the song “Bring Me a Higher Love,” preaching a sermon that transcended the political divisiveness of these times and moved the audience to multiple ovations.
“Is there a Democrat in the house,” he asked. The audience responded in winds of laughter. “Then you got to find a Republican and you got to love him,” he continued.
“And is there a Republican in the house,” Curry went on to ask. “And I want you to find the most left-wing Democrat you get your hands on and love him.”
“You go out and love somebody,” he said, issuing his final call to action in the historic revival that began on the rolling campus of the Washington National Cathedral and ended on a hilltop east of the Anacostia River.