The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, visited Fulton on Thursday (Feb. 27) to deliver a guest lecture and preside over a service at Westminster College. The lecture was held in the historic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.
Jefferts Schori started her professional career as an oceanographer. She later returned to school for a Master's of Divinity in Theology. She was ordained in 1994, and in 2006, she became the first woman to be the presiding bishop. She is scheduled to receive an honorary degree from Oxford University in June.
Westminster College brought her to Fulton for the C.S. Lewis Legacy Lecture. The annual lecture series is part of the the Harrod–C.S. Lewis Professorship in Religious Studies – a professorship started last year by Westminster alumnus Jim Harrod and his wife, Sharon. The couple now lives in Texas, but they visited Fulton last year for the inaugural lecture, and again this year.
Her immersion in both science and religion came through in her lecture; she spoke about how they both seek answers to the big "why" questions, and offer conceptions of identity, meaning and purpose.
“We’ll focus on scientific and religious frameworks of meaning-making, and I will tell you as I begin that I do not see them as mutually exclusive, but as potentially expansive and even synergistic,” she said.
She talked about different origin stories: first, the biblical account of creation found in the book of Genesis, and then a summary of events from a scientific standpoint.
"There are other religious [origin stories], but the scientific one stands alone as an externally verifiable response to the physical reality we all experience," she said. "Religious stories of origin deal with meaning in ways that move beyond what the scientific one is capable of, particularly when it comes to value – value beyond the instrumental and utilitarian."
She also spoke about what it means to be human. She touched on truth and beauty, wisdom and justice. She highlighted the interconnectedness of humanity, and all of creation.
"The interconnectedness of all evokes a responsibility for right use, for appropriate humility in caring for all members of the household," she said. "What does a productive garden look like? How do we steward the whole, or the small part we occupy?"
Jefferts Schori urged her audience to remember that their actions are not done in isolation, but have lasting implications. Recalling the creation stories, she said, will help us move from "an anthropocentric view of the universe to a networked and systemic vision that understands our part in the whole."
"None of us truly matters, unless all of creation does," she said.
Later in the afternoon, she presided over a Holy Eucharist service.
Jefferts Schori shared some of his story, and noted that his writings reflected "the innate value of every part of creation."
She also talked about the Beatitudes, from the book of Matthew in the Bible, and focused on the phrase, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."
Much of her talk focused on seeing the needs around us, particularly for the poor. She said society today needs "public orators with poor hearts, and pure ones."
"God will use any who are willing to be instruments of peace, knowing even the most humble task is essential and holy," she said. "Will you become poor in spirit?"
This video was produced in partnership with Columbia Faith & Values.