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The Church Universal

The Rev. Rita Powell
May 16, 2019

Last Saturday afternoon, I checked into a hotel room in a seventeenth century convent.  The ceiling was low, and striped with whitewash and dark beams.  A somber antique portrait of a thoughtful young woman at a desk was over the bed.  I went over to the deep window, opened the wooden shutter and looked through large iron grate into blazing sunshine.  My room was directly opposite the tiled gate to enter the building, framed by sentries of Mediterranean pine, bushes of rosemary and lavender baking and fragrant in the warm afternoon.  A strip of red carpet led under the arch to the door beneath my room.  I opened the window at exactly the right moment to see a lovely tall man in a deep navy suit with a woman in a white dress and a huge white hat with flowers and a veil walking in.  My friends! I hurried to change my clothes from clericals to festive wear and go down to join the reception in the wide flagstone cloister below.  But I gave myself one moment to reflect. 


I had just come from the Roman Catholic church down the road in a village just outside Madrid where I had vested and helped celebrate the wedding of these two.  My partner in liturgical leadership was a Catholic priest who, like me, had been a volunteer at Taizé when he was young.  His hospitality to me was beyond what his church accepts, but was motivated by his anchor in the gospel imperative for welcome.  He did not speak English, so in Spanish, we negotiated who would stand where, who would say what parts of the blessing, and how we would wrap the couple in a golden humeral veil at the right moment.  We blessed the couple with an icon in the style of the orthodox, and I preached in Spanish about savoring everyday moments. 


The bride was my roommate when we were volunteers at Taizé and her community was made of childhood friends and family as well as a host of international colleagues from her work in Haiti and the Congo.  There were many Catholics there, as well as many non-religious people.  Our conversation flew from Spanish to French to English throughout the day and night.  There was a Spaniard there whose first introduction to Taizé and to the USA was the Taizé Pine Ridge event I helped organize six years ago. 


It struck me that afternoon that I was living a moment of the universal church. A moment in which the liturgy of the church, illuminating a sacred moment in the lives of these two, created a vast space for people from all over the world to meet in love, discovering the thread of connection.  The mission of the church, our prayer book says, is to reconcile all people to God and to each other in Christ.  I was privileged to witness and participate in such a moment of possibility this past week.  An Easter blessing, thanks be to God!


Benediciones para todos,





The Rev. Rita T. Powell

Associate Rector


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