Morial Convention Center, September 20, 2007
Bishop Jenkins of Louisiana quoted Rowan Williams to introduce Rowan Williams, saying “let us ‘be unmade to be remade’ and to build a just and inclusive society.” The assembly of at least a thousand, if not the promised thousands, said a loud “Amen!”
You heard right. Jenkins, notable moderate-or-conservative depending on which blog you favor, used the “i” word. And, again depending on your blogifiliation, Williams’ idea of being ‘unmade’ to be ‘remade’ could mean schism or reduced status or realignment or reconciliation or…maybe it just means what it says. (This much we do know: David Virtue threw up his hands in exasperation at the end of Rowan's sermon.)
When he preached, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke to New Orleans in a way that could as easily be applied to any community, any communion. And he evoked, most poignantly, the absences in this city still oddly empty by comparison to its pre-Katrina hub-bub.
He also borrowed the evening lesson’s image of a city where old men and old women may sit contentedly while boys and girls play in the streets as a way of describing a vision of the Godly city, the Godly community. He preached of ‘life-giving idleness’ to city of The Big Easy and got a laugh while making a point. His vision of what New Orleans now lacks, its absences, and its potential to re-make itself as a more Godly city was very alluring.
Lest we forget, a central element of that ‘absent’ city that Rowan eulogized is its centuries-long legacy of lesbian, gay and trans life. New Orleans, that most Roman Catholic of American cities, always had a way of welcoming and accepting the irreplaceable gifts of the gay, lesbian and trans refugees who fled here from the homophobic ‘heartland.’ The absence of that vibrant, contributing, leading culture is one of the critical deficits New Orleans must address if it is to be New Orleans again.
What you missed? A rousing jazz performance by Irvin Mayfield on the “Elysian” trumpet followed by a classic ‘second line’ dance around the auditorium by handkerchief waving Episcopalians. Oh, it was rich! And the spectacle of Rowan and Katharine ‘getting down’ on stage. Yum. And everyone singing two songs that pretty much captured the emotions of the moment. “I’ll fly away” being the wish just to escape all the rancor being forced on us. And finally, “When the saints go marchin in,” signaling the shared hope of a city of God where ALL the old folks and ALL the children will be at their blessed leisure.
Wonder what tune Rowan and Katharine will sing, what vision of communion will they invoke, at today’s lunchtime news conference? Whichever it is, immediately after the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury will ‘fly away’ home.