The retreat welcomed 161 representatives from Province III. There were many things about this retreat that made it special. One though particularly stands our for me - it was an amazingly display of unity (and not without some challenges, mind you!) of both Episcopalians and Anglicans dioceses and parishes that are included in the Order of the Daughters of the King Province III.
We also welcomed the DOK National President Joan Dalrymple who joined us for the entire retreat. Joan will be leading the Triennial in July in Anaheim.
At the retreat this weekend we didn't focus unity - our focus wasn't on unity. The focus was on the cross. In the cross we found unity. That was a major lesson.
We had Episcopal, Southern Cone, and CANA clergy present. What caused us to open our arms to one another was simply the power of the cross of Jesus Christ, whom the DOK recognize as our King. The cross bears all our sins, all our pain, all our troubles, all our confusion, all our anger, all our bewilderment, all our self-righteousness, and all our life, love, joy, peace, and hope. It is the Cross of Christ.
The idea of Province III-sponsored was the inspiration of former Diocese of Washington DOK President, Barbara Banks. Barbara envisioned retreats for spiritual renewal on the provincial level (I attended my first one last year) and she planned much of this year's retreat as well. Sadly, we lost Barbara after her extraordinarily brave fight against cancer last year - we miss her terribly - but her vision lives on.
In fact, her two daughters joined us this weekend as well.
One of the major themes of this weekend was "Standing in the Gap," a call to the Daughters of the King - Anglican and Episcopalian - to stand in the gap in what was called our "spiritual" Gettysburgs, conflicts so fierce they seem insurmountable, but that Christ calls us to stand in the gap in the power of the cross. The Daughters were commissioned this weekend to do just that.
The Order of the Daughters of the King includes the habitual wearing of the cross of the Order. It's a constant reminder for all of us - Episcopalians and Anglicans - that we do not stand on our merit, we do not pray on our own merit, we do not hope on our own merit, but all through the cross.
When we are at the foot of the cross - and it can be simply astonishing difficult at times to get there - then we all recognize (Anglican and Episcopalian) our glorious failures, our lack of love, our lack of humility, our lack of hope, joy, peace, perseverance, kindness, patience, endurance, forgiveness, love. All of us - not just "them" but "us," not just "you" but "me." We are literally united in our brokenness.
What a difference it was for us from when we all arrived on Friday to when we left today. I sat with an Episcopal DOK member from a church here in Virginia that is often on the polarized other side of the fence in our current troubles from me. But there we are, sitting at the table, sisters. The cross has that effect on people.
And it's Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is poured out onto the Church - for service. The praying went on last night until 1:30 a.m. this morning, the wee hours of Pentecost. It's just wouldn't stop.
I pray that the Order of the Daughters of King will continue to stand in the gap through this great crisis that the Anglican Communion is walking through. Nothing is insurmountable for the cross - nothing. Nothing. Getting to the foot of the cross, though - that can be a challenge. It was a challenge this weekend, indeed - but when it came to the end and we sang this song, it was true. In Christ alone our hope is found.
What is the Order of the Daughters of the King? Here's the official statement:
The Order of the Daughters of the King was founded in 1885 by Margaret J. Franklin at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in New York City. The Order of the Daughters of the King (DOK) is a spiritual sisterhood of women dedicated to a life of Prayer, Service and Evangelism. We have made a commitment to Jesus as our Savior, and we follow Him as Lord of our lives. We are an Order for women who are communicants of the Episcopal Church, churches in communion with it, or churches in the Historic Episcopate. Today our membership includes women in the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA) and Roman Catholic churches. An Order is a community under a religious rule; especially one requiring members to take solemn vows. We don't just enroll as members and attend meetings; we take life-long vows to follow the Rule of Prayer and Rule of Service.