The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis convened in Jeffersonville and New Albany, IN near the banks of the Ohio River October 26-28 for its 180th Diocesan Convention, an event with the theme “Come to the River!” and a time punctuated by a focus on joy, mission, and visioning for the future.

This was the first convention where The Right Reverend Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Bishop, presided following her election last October at the 179th Diocesan Convention.  In her address to convention, Bishop Baskerville-Burrows challenged delegates and guests to vision in new ways.

“My brothers and sisters, we are called to dream big dreams.  Dreams worthy of the reign of God.  So, let’s learn together how to dream big, how to take risks, make mistakes, and try again,” she said.  “Permission has been granted to get out of the box, out of our church buildings, out of the same old-same old and try new things.  Keep what works learn from mistakes, and keep on going.”       

During her sermon at the convention Eucharist, Bishop Baskerville-Burrows further developed the convention theme of river and waterways and spoke of her sense of promise and hope about the collective ministry of the diocese.

“Trust the living water.  It will hold us,” she said. “May we ever be connected by the waters of Baptism and the blessed waterways that sustain natural life, that we would be agents of God’s reconciliation, mercy, and love.”  

Bishop Baskerville-Burrows has been conducting a series of listening sessions around the diocese over the past few months.  Clergy and lay leaders took some time with delegates to relate major themes that had emerged out of the listening sessions and pose a series of questions.  Delegates were then challenged to consider those primary themes and questions at table discussions and further develop ideas that would be shared at a November diocesan Executive Council retreat.

In business session action, convention:

Mission opportunities at this year’s convention included significant work around the opioid epidemic.  Delegates were invited to learn more about the epidemic and encouraged to consider church-based community organizing to help more effectively address the crisis locally, statewide, and nationally.  Delegates were trained in using Narcan if they encounter someone who is overdosing and each parish was given a Narcan dose to take back to their church along with help in recognizing addiction and obtaining additional dosages.  Delegates were also provided with syringe kits and information on the importance of working in their communities on needle exchange as a means of combating growing cases of HIV-AIDS and Hepatitis C brought on by persons with addiction sharing needles.  Prior to convention Eucharist, delegates and guests from the community participated in a Prayers and Bells event.  Petitions were read about the epidemic and its victims and bells were tolled 11 times by participants, signifying the amount of Indiana residents who were expected to die from opioid-related causes in the brief time Diocesan Convention was meeting.  The event received significant media coverage and offered a way to connect the Episcopal Church and the local community to the crisis. 

Delegates also brought dozens of items, packed, and delivered over one hundred hygiene kits for homeless or poorly-housed persons in local shelters.  Some delegates also went to the Ohio River shore with chaplains from Ministry on the River and delivered prayer books and comfort supplies for those who work for long periods of time on towboats and barges traveling the river. 

Fun was in abundance at the convention, as well.  Opening day included a “Fall Warm Up” event at a cabin in the southern Indiana woods, where participants enjoyed roasting hot dogs and s’mores, sharing potluck supper, and completing an Episcopal-themed scavenger hunt and trivia challenge.  Following a day of business the next day, a post-dinner DJ dance attracted a big crowd on the dance floor—led by Bishop Baskerville-Burrows.

The 181st Diocesan Convention will convene November 16-17, 2018 in Bloomington, Indiana.            

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