House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church

A Tale of Two Pilgrimages: 2019 Easter Message

Deputy Metoyer (third row right in hat) with fellow pilgrims and hosts on the steps of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Lusaka, Zambia

The Body of Christ, throughout the world, working together creating God’s dream in our lands.

Recently I was appointed interim vicar of a very small congregation in San Francisco. It’s an historically African American church in a gentrifying neighborhood, a congregation deeply faithful, deeply connected in the old neighborhood. We have ministries addressing food insecurity in the area, we host weekly sandwich giveaways, monthly senior lunches and an afterschool enrichment program for kindergarten through fifth graders. We are very small, and blessedly very committed, to being the light of Christ in our corner of the city.

This Easter I have my congregation on pilgrimage – our Holy Week is being spent in various churches in our city – Tenebrae and Holy Thursday away, Good Friday at home, Easter Vigil away, Easter at home. The journey has taken us to our cathedral, a landmark in San Francisco, thence to a signature Anglo-Catholic parish with whom we have historic ties, thence to another small neighborhood parish in the western reaches for the Easter Vigil. On Sunday, home again in our own congregation.

As we travel around our city, we are pilgrims, strangers in strange lands; we are sharing their Holy Week experiences, meeting their congregants, and sharing our story with the people we’re meeting. We’re learning from churches that host local health clinics, food pantries, and yoga practitioners by the hundreds. We’re sharing stories, too, of mindful meditation circles and world music artists performing in our sanctuary. We’re on our own journey, open and vulnerable, with our churches, together as the Body of Christ, the shared witness of Christ’s light in the world.

In March I joined a dozen plus current and former deputies and friends on pilgrimage to Zambia in southern Africa. Under the leadership of Gay Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, escorted by Rob Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development, and other staff from that organization, we went to learn from and observe the integrated early childhood development centers in Zambian villages. We were with incredibly dedicated people working to change the lives of children, a most vulnerable population. We learned that most of the 26,000 children served in the approximately 117 centers have lost a parent, and a significant number have lost both. We learned they care for these children from birth and postnatal care through age seven, when they begin public schooling. The care is holistic and 360-degrees, including parenting skills, financial skills, better home health and better farming. Visiting the integrated early childhood development center site in Mikumbila and seeing the school, the financial class, and the home visit was remarkable, especially as we witnessed the ways that the incredibly committed volunteers work with caregivers and community leaders to ensure children are not left behind. For me, the stories they shared are not forgotten, they are the light of Christ in Zambia.

As a pilgrim returned home, I shared my experiences in Zambia with my sibling congregants in San Francisco; we noted a common desire to serve the marginalized of our communities. In our Holy Week journey through San Francisco, we are guests, the strangers, ready to hear the experiences in the churches we visit and to share our stories with them, united as we are, the Light of Christ in the World.

From the people of St Cyprian’s, San Francisco, we wish you a very joyous Feast of the Resurrection and a blessed Eastertide.

Eric Metoyer is a deputy from the Diocese of California.