Breakfast with the Bishop

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This entry was originally posted June 14, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child

This last Thursday I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to a special breakfast. Held at the home of Mike Schut, Program Officer for Environmental & Economic Affairs, 15 people along with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gathered to talk about three interconnected issues: multi-cultural ministries, environment and economic affairs, and young adults.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding BishopEach of us brought something to share – fruit, bagels, scones, juice, coffee – and put together a circle of chairs in Mike’s living room. We started by sharing our stories. Everyone went around introducing themselves and the kind of work they do. It was not strictly Episcopalians, but everyone in attendance was working in one of the three core areas we wanted to discuss. Introductions were so diverse and interesting they ended up taking up much of the time. We heard about volunteer run organic gardens serving the inner-city, native tribes struggling for federal recognition, and churches that manage to keep all the hymns and incense while appealing to a younger generation. For myself I spoke about Covenant House and Crossroads Ministry (also known as Episcopal / Lutheran Student Ministries) at the University of Washington, as well as my upcoming journey to General Convention.

When I first found out that the issues were to be discussed together, I was a bit skeptical about how they connected. But an hour in that living room and I knew exactly how connected we all were. The native nations of this country have traditions steeped in respecting and protecting the en
While I can’t list all of the things discussed, I believe the Bishop summed it up the best when she said that our job as Christians is to feed people, and that at this point in our history that might mean actual, literal food. People are hungry and what we eat really can shape who we are.vironment. Young people open up to ethnic ministries because inclusive attitudes signal change and revitalization which is something many young people are in search of as they are trying to find a place in the world and the church. As stories were told, more connections were found. These causes need not operate alone. We can help each other.

More than anything I was happy to be there because I personally got a wake up call. It is easy to know on an intellectual level that other people have different situations than you, that not everyone thinks like you do, that you do not speak for everyone in the groups you associate with. I realize that when it comes to church events, I often fall into a trap. I am not afraid to speak up in groups and voice my opinions or observations. I am also often the only young person there. These two things combined means that I tend to become the official spokesperson for youth and young adults in the church. People hear my opinions and regard them as fact. I began to believe that my opinions are fact. This last Thursday at breakfast I was fortunate enough to receive a reminder of how wrong I can be, and how isolated my experiences and opinions really are.

I was speaking to the group about how young people can be their allies with both the environmental and ethnic progress, since the generation now coming into power, my generation, was raised on Black History Month and Captain Planet. I told them that to young people, this “new” green movement and President Obama’s election have the ring of, “Well it’s about time.” I said that we get it and we want to help make it happen.

That’s when Rev. Robert Jeffrey of Clean Greens Farm ( spoke up. His was the story about the volunteer-run, organic garden that then sells to people in the city at very affordable prices. He said that for the young people who are raised in the inner-city, the earth is not seen that way. The earth is seen as the enemy because of the legacy of slavery that so many of them still carry. He said that when you’re raised in the heart of the city, “food” means McDonalds and Burger King. That’s what it means to be fed. Everything you eat takes less than 5 minutes, and that’s how you start to see yourself as well as life in general. There’s no concept of growing and nurturing over time, because that is not what food is in the city. It is a survival mentality and it does not include greens for dinner and organic pomegranate seeds. Rev. Jeffrey very clearly, politely and precisely let us know that not all young people think the same. It was a reminder I was in desperate need of, and i thank him for that.

I am honored to have had the opportunity to sit with these people, share food together, and talk about what our journeys have been thus far. It was a gift and a treasure. Special thanks go to Mike Schut for offering his home, Jason Sierra for inviting me, Katharine Jefferts Schori for taking time out of her busy travel schedule, and Rev. Jeffrey for reopening my eyes.