Thursday, January 20, 2011

Integrity Alabama Holds Feast of St. Aelred Celebration

CORRECTION IN PARAGRAPH TWO: This is not the first time the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley has participated in the St. Aelred celebration. He both preached and celebrated several years ago and has been supportive of his fellow bishops coming to do the same. Integrity USA apologizes to Bishop Parsley for the error.

Over 100 Integrity members and friends from throughout the state of Alabama and beyond participated in Integrity Alabama's annual celebration of the Feast of St. Aelred of Rievaulx on Saturday, January 15th.  The event took place at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Birmingham, AL (an Integrity Proud Parish Partner).

Max Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of Integrity USA delivered the homily.  For the first time, The Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Bishop of Alabama joined the festivities as the celebrant. The service was followed by Integrity Alabama's annual dinner, which hosted 130 members and friends.

 Here is an excerpt from Max's homily.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Aelred. In the Episcopal Calendar of Saints, this is also a day when we celebrate the life and ministry of Martin Luther King, Jr. St. Aelred and Martin Luther King are quite a pair. St. Aelred: An English monk who lived almost a thousand years ago, ran an abbey full of monks who probably never took a bath in their lives, and wrote books on sheepskin. Martin Luther King, Jr.: An African American civil rights leader and preacher who fought for change through peaceful witness, and was assassinated just 42 years ago.

But these two men are actually parallels of one another in many ways. They were both like Mary Magdalene: Like her, they were from groups that were – and still are, in many cases – mistreated in society. People like them – or, I should say, people like “us” – are told by a lot of folks that they’re not as good as other people, or shouldn’t have the same privileges. We know a lot about Dr. King. Aelred is less well-known to many of us. When he was entered into our calendar of saints, the Episcopal Church understood that he was gay. In effect, our Church is on record as saying that gay people can be “saints.” I think that’s pretty wonderful.

More importantly than any of this, though, is that fact that Aelred and Martin Luther King are two of our greatest saints of Christian love and reconciliation.

Aelred was a great mystic and author. In his book Spiritual Friendship, Aelred writes, “In friendship are joined honor and charm, truth and joy, sweetness and good will, affection and action. And all these take their beginning in Christ, advance through Christ, and are perfected in Christ… Friend cleaving to friend in the spirit of Christ is made, with Christ, but one heart and one soul, and so mounting aloft through degrees of love to friendship with Christ [friends are] made one spirit with him.”

Aelred and King both deeply understood the commandments to love God first, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. They deeply understood that when we really love one another, we are abiding in God, and God is abiding in us. They both made that deep, Christian love the centerpiece of their lives. And they both worked in friendship with Jesus Christ and their brothers and sisters to transform the world.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be here with you today for the Feast of St. Aelred. The witness to God’s love that is present in this church, and in the work of Integrity Alabama, is truly humbling.

........when we are at our best, we strive to follow the lead of saints like Aelred and Martin Luther King, Jr., even when that is difficult: Saints who give over their lives to seeking reconciliation and true friendship with all people – who challenge us to turn our backs on fear and division – to fight for what is right – and to embrace all of our brothers and sisters as living members of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Thomas Squiers said...

Rejoicing with IntegrityAL