What Love Can Do

We seem to tell a tale of two hearts these days, one based on Love, and the other, Fear.  The version steeped in Fear says that Love isn’t realistic in such a modern world.

But what I know for True is that Love isn’t about rose-colored glasses.  It’s about action.

I recently had the joy of attending the ordination and consecration ceremony for Daniel George Polycarp Gutierrez, as the 16th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

 

Dan

Now, that’s a mouthful.  And my goodness, but this was a big tooting deal.  I knew it would be, but even I was amazed by, as they say in Episcopal circles, all the bells and smoke and ceremony.

But I was amazed most by something far deeper.

Full disclosure—this is not my religion.  Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not so big on organized religion at all.  Not that the church, in all of its iterations, hasn’t done a lot of good in the world.  But at least as often we cringe at the negative aspects of power and control, of nefarious deeds that seem to crop up from all corners.

Mainly, when it comes down to it, church hierarchy has always just given me a headache.

But a spiritual path is something much more vital in my world, and I honor whatever route leads anyone to a relationship with the divine.  Although I don’t subscribe to any label, I follow, or try to, the teachings of the Christ.

But labels often merely get in the way.

As the philosopher said, “Once you label me you negate me.”

Soren Kierkegaard

Which works on all levels, including spiritual ones.

God just shows up in many forms.

The honor to attend this ceremony came from my dear friend and sister, Suzanne, the wife of the now Bishop.  We’ve been friends for 40 years, and I cannot imagine this life without her.  She’s simply one of the dearest people on earth.

I am aunt to their son, Jude, and still cannot figure out how he has become a senior in high school.  But a fine young man he is growing into, indeed.

So anyhow, I attended the ceremony and all the weekend festivities, as part of the family.

Participating were several Bishops.  As well as the Presiding Bishop of the United States, a delightful man, always with a laugh or a smile and a twinkle in his eye.  And all the other hierarchy, which sort of escapes me now.

The newly consecrated Bishop, however, is to me, well, still Dan.

I’ve known him for over 25 years.  I remember when he was wooing Suzanne (and woo her, he had to do!).  Known him through their careers, through the birth of their son.  Through many, many times of both heartache and joy, beginnings and deaths.  Through all those passages that humans must go.

I have watched him grow through all of these, as he worked in the political arena as well.  He has always been a man of ethics and morals (which doesn’t quite square with our idea of politics, right?).

But I’ve also gotten a ring-side seat as he’s grown from an idealistic youth into a fine man.  One who takes the admonition to love one another as a main tenet of his life (in both professional and personal realms), manifesting this through the things that he does.  Whether those be leading a church, counseling people in great grief, or volunteering at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.  And a million things in between.

As Bishop, he now answers to the aforementioned Presiding Bishop of the US.  And the Presiding Bishop answers to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  You know the one—who meets once a week with the Queen of England.

Getting the picture?

Yep, a big tooting deal, indeed.

Dan2

But none of the pomp and circumstance is what amazed me.  Even though it was beautiful.

I wasn’t of course the only non-member in the cathedral.  As young Barrett, who leaned in and said with a scrunched-up face as we recited The Lord’s Prayer, “This isn’t how we say it in the Methodist Church.”

Nope!

Although both Barrett and his brother will forever be known for their reactions to the communal wine.  Suffice to say when grown wine won’t likely be a beverage of choice for either!  Which they proclaimed to all the adults within earshot.

Many people of other beliefs attended as well.  One wonderful couple who came from Albuquerque, members of the Jewish faith, participated in all and were moved to tears throughout.

Most of us shed tears of joy that day.

And I cannot imagine anyone there not feeling the depth of love.

I know it sounds corny.  But a deep, abiding love beat from the hearts of everyone around us, from those up at the alter to the incredible choirs (yes, two!), to the people sitting in the pews.

This was personal to the people involved in the ceremony.  They knew and loved one another.  They told each other such.  They meant it.

You couldn’t help but be enveloped by it.  You couldn’t help but be moved.  You couldn’t help but feel a connection to those around you, and be filled with hope in this uncertain world.

The next day, the new Bishop gave the message at Christ Church in Philadelphia.  And ah, what an incredible church this is!  Established in 1695, the building was completed in 1744.

Often referred to as “the Nation’s Church,” or “the Patriots’ Church,” Christ Church was frequently visited in the Revolutionary era by members of the Continental Congresses, Washington’s troops, and the Constitutional Convention.  On July 4, 1776, Christ Church publicly banished King George’s name from divine worship—an act as dangerous as signing the Declaration of Independence.

Seven signers of the Declaration are buried in the grounds of Christ Church, and it has counted as its members Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Andrew Hamilton, George Washington, and many more.

Oh, my.  You can just feel them there. Feel a sense of the Freedom for which they fought, the Hope in their hearts, the depth of what they believed in.  The very Liberty for which they struggled whispers on the winds.

The entire building fairly breathes history.

So, quite fitting the new Bishop would choose that church to give his first message after his consecration.

dan3

Because the other thing I know about Dan, is that respect and justice for all flows through his very veins.  That combined with the depth of love from which he operates, the alleviation of suffering is his life’s mission as well.

And fitting, his message that morning.  On the heels of the deaths of yet two more young African-American men at the hands of law enforcement, followed by the deaths of 5 police officers in Dallas, the hearts of this nation were again heavy.

So, what did the new Bishop say?  He focused on the idea that all people are created equal. That no matter our differences—how we worship, the color of our skins, the difference in gender, whether we’re straight or gay—when boiled down to our essence, we’re all humans.  We have the same needs, the same fears, the same desires.  We all bleed red.

We have the same needs, the same fears, the same desires. We all bleed red.

We all want, in the deepest recesses of our hearts, to be valued and loved.

His charge was for everyone to get involved, to make a difference in what was occurring in our world, in our small corners of it, to those around us.

Not to proselytize.  Not to judge.  But to lend a helping hand.  To be the solution.

It provided a profound end to a very poignant weekend.

And restored for all there our faith in the power of love.

Love is always more fierce than fear; always stronger than hate.  I may be Pollyanna, but I have a fairly good grasp on history.  And never have I seen the converse ultimately prevail, although sometimes in the midst, that may appear to be so.

So although this Bishop will always be Dan to me, what an enormous joy to watch him don his official robes, to see him grow into them before my very eyes.

And mainly, to provide more hope for the good he will do—not just for his denomination, but for this country as a whole, and thereby, the world.

I’m excited to see what Love will do.  The mountains that will be moved.

Love ya, my brother.

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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38 comments
Meghan Monaghan says August 3, 2016

What a beautifully written post! I enjoyed your perspective about the event and about life. We all need more love, less fear, and a moment when we can believe in the goodness of humans.

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    Susan Malone says August 3, 2016

    So true, Meghan! I’m still just so inspired by the whole weekend 🙂

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365 says August 3, 2016

Hi Susan! I think you and I fall into the same category in regards to organized religion. But the experience you had (and so nicely communicated) was surely one of the “awe and wonder” that can happen when you witness the love and peace that comes from being surrounded by so many people focused on good. Thank you for sharing it. Dan sounds like a wonderful man and that will surely make him a wonderful minister to those who touches. ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says August 3, 2016

    I believe we do, Kathy! But one of the perks that comes with that is being able to find that awe and wonder (which you write about so beautifully!) anywhere. And especially where the focus is on Love, rather than judgement and fear 🙂

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Brianna Leigh says August 3, 2016

I attend an RCA church which is similar in some instances to the pomp and circumstance of an Episcopalian or Roman Catholic church. Beautiful pictures, makes me miss my home church!

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stephanie l ward says August 3, 2016

Wish I could have been there! He is still Uncle Dan to me too ! I am so proud of him!

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Beverley Golden says August 3, 2016

What an amazing experience you had and shared with us, Susan! It must have been so empowering and reaffirming to witness someone (who is close to you too), walk their talk. To encourage others to do the same. I do believe that our solutions will come out of people becoming involved in the world around them. From the local level on up. And to get involved from a place of love, compassion and community. Watching Reverend William Barber II at the Democratic National Convention, moved me in the way you share here. Thanks for this perspective and for showing us love is alive and well, even when we don’t necessarily see it at work!

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    Susan Malone says August 3, 2016

    Oh, it was so powerful and reaffirming, Beverley! And isn’t that just it in a nutshell–being around someone who walks his talk. I, too, believe what works is getting involved from a place of love, compassion and community. You hit the essence of it 🙂

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Audrey says August 3, 2016

This is a moving story – the pride and admiration you have for your brother-in-law comes through loud and clear. Any true person of God will be a source of inspiration and admiration. Lucky for you, this person is also part of your family.

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    Susan Malone says August 4, 2016

    I am so blessed, Audrey. And I so agree on those who are sources of inspiration!

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Liza says August 3, 2016

Beautifully written. My sentiments exactly.

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Lori English says August 3, 2016

Thank You Susan for your Beautiful post , it was and I loved it and there is a part where you you say not to judge. I am in favor of this, and feel we are here for a reason and not being judgmental is part of the process that we have taken. Gratitude for life and helping other’s is my passion. Your post was beautiful and I truly enjoyed this.
Thank You,
Lori English

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    Susan Malone says August 4, 2016

    I so agree, Lori. We can never really know what’s going on within others. We all have walked through hell, at some point or another. We’re all human!

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Teresa Salhi says August 3, 2016

Dan is a representation of what is also in you Susan. In all of us. It is a gift to have a such a wonderful reflection nearby. We know far too well there are naysayers and harm around every corner. Such a beautiful story and heartfelt words expressing the meaning and it all leads a reader to feel hope and hopefully see their own possibilities.

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    Susan Malone says August 4, 2016

    Beautifully said, Teresa–it is my hope that readers feel that hope, and see their own possibilities. Love that!

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Joan Potter says August 3, 2016

Susan – So glad the experience was so positive for you! Whenever I attend a religious event like that I so wish they could all be that way!

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    Susan Malone says August 4, 2016

    Isn’t it true, Joan. And sometimes, the pomp and circumstances and true joy all come wrapped in one package 🙂

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Rachel Lavern says August 3, 2016

I can hear how inspired you are in the post Susan! It is so refreshing to witness the power of love.

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Jasmine Watts says August 4, 2016

Wow… what a great piece of writing and I really enjoyed reading your post! And especially love the quote “We have the same needs, the same fears, the same desires. We all bleed red.”

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    Susan Malone says August 4, 2016

    So true, Jasmine. We do, don’t we. If we could all just remember that . . .

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Joan M Harrington says August 6, 2016

Hi Susan,

What an inspirational story about your friend, Dan, who became a Bishop and you were there to celebrate with him and his family 🙂

I agree that love is much more powerful than hate and to know that you are friends with someone who is all about love, well that is awesome 🙂 Because we certainly need more love in this world, that is for sure 🙂

Wonderful post!!

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    Susan Malone says August 8, 2016

    Oh-so-true, Joan! We do, we do. And the love that moves mountains . . .

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Karen Grosz says August 6, 2016

I personally love ceremonies like that. Congrats to your new Bishop and that you were able to participate. Here is to Love.

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Crystal says August 8, 2016

A purposefully seek out websites that share great news. There is so many bad stories shared on the local news and it seems like it takes less effort for people to complain rather than to share something wonderful. I appreciate your post for bringing a great story to light!

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Jackie Harder says August 8, 2016

Great piece, Susan, and I especially loved (to follow your theme!) the first photo of the bishop with the little girl. Priceless and it speaks volumes for the kind of man he is. Thanks for sharing this.

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    Susan Malone says August 8, 2016

    Doesn’t that photo just say everything, Jackie! I had to fight for it a bit. I’m now banned from using vertical pictures on account of search engines don’t utilize them as well. Don’t ask me–I have no clue to any of that stuff. But this pic just was so beautiful I had to use it 🙂

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Kimberly says August 9, 2016

Beautiful. Thanks for spreading the message of love. Every voice that can speak about it adds to the swell.

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    Susan Malone says August 9, 2016

    I always think of the Hundredth Monkey Syndrome, Kimberly. Every voice gets us closer . . .

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Roslyn Tanner Evans says August 9, 2016

So glad I read this again. Often I look at people who have risen to lead and I know they started out as you and me and they still are you and me. We feel such a sense of pride with the love to know this man, this New Bishop is your friend Dan. I imagine had I been there I would have had tears of joy. Have limited experience inside churches but was in one recently & the gal who sang touched my soul with her voice.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience.

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    Susan Malone says August 10, 2016

    Isn’t it funny how we can feel love and joy, no matter where we are, Roz! Beauty and Truth can be found everywhere.

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Joyce Hansen says August 10, 2016

What a wonderful opportunity. We hear the message of love in so many forms, but to witness it is to experience it. The next best thing is sharing it with us.

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    Susan Malone says August 10, 2016

    Don’t we love to share love, Joyce. And it allows us to experience it all over again!

    Reply
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