PresBishopConfWebSq_ELNearly 150 members of El Camino Real emerged from St. Andrew’s Church in Saratoga on May 2 with spirits inspired and uplifted, thanks largely to the presence of The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. The headliner of this year’s Spring Conference, Bishop Jefferts Schori delivered a morning message, led conversations, and joined an afternoon Q&A panel discussion with Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves.

The morning message focused primarily on the need for congregations to build relationships with communities, to further Christ’s work “beyond the choir and the converted,” and to “understand ourselves as a church that’s always in the process of reformation.” Framing her talk in the Five Marks of Mission, she noted early that even the name “Galilee” means “district” or “neighborhood” and shared examples of The Episcopal Church’s impact in transforming communities both locally and globally.

“I think more than anything else, for us to be self-extending, self-governing and self-sustaining is about being the church . . . rather than building and expecting people to come. It’s about spending time with others and building a relationship first. Until you know what a community’s hungers are, you don’t have any good news to share.”

Recalling the past election campaign, she added that “people talked about the fact that Jesus was a ‘community organizer.’ It’s true – he went into the communities and he listened. He didn’t just go in and fix people… he asked what they wanted and needed, and then he responded.”

Maturing in mission requires courageous and creative thinking, urged the Presiding Bishop. She recounted an experience years ago unpacking a desktop computer and discovering the acronym “OOBE,” which stood for “Out-of-Box Experience.”

“I think that’s a great metaphor for thinking about mission,” she said. “Mission is about getting out of the box that we usually think of as church. Sometimes it means getting out of the buildings permanently to meet, or to gather in other contexts, and to gather other than Sundays.”

Watch for the second installment of our conference coverage soon, including notes from the panel discussion and an interview with the Presiding Bishop.