Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is a familiar face to many Houstonians. After all, he delivered the sermon at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Curry also serves in the highest position of the Episcopal Church and is the first African American in that role. Soon, he will appear in Houston — in North America’s largest Episcopal Church, St. Martin’s, 717 Sage Road.
The visit will kick off with Advent Quiet Day, scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the church. There is a $20 fee to attend in person, and the event will also be livestreamed for free from St. Martin’s homepage.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry will lead the reflective day of prayer, meditation and contemplation.
“I am so looking forward to my Advent Quiet Day visit with St. Martin’s church,” he said in an email.
“While I am admittedly an extrovert, something I have come to understand as a gift of the past two pandemic years is the place of quiet in our lives — the spiritual benefits of solitude — and the ways that slowing down can help us recharge, reconnect with hope and align our hearts with God’s dream for our lives,” Curry added.
St. Martin’s director of contemporary music Wayne Watson has selected compositions to accompany the presiding bishop’s message.
Clergy who will join include the Rev. Victor Thomas, rector of St. James’ Episcopal; the Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest; the Rev. Dr. Leigh Spruill, rector of St. John the Divine; the Very Rev. Barkley Thompson, dean of Christ Church Cathedral; and the Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson Jr, rector of St. Martin’s.
Levenson explained that Advent is a meditative season.
“The idea is that we’re spending time slowing down, being quiet, waiting,” he added. “I’m really glad that the presiding bishop is coming in the beginning of Advent.”
Curry will also join St. Martin’s for an educational class at 10:15 a.m. on Dec. 12. At 11:30 a.m., he will join the service, “A Festival of Lessons and Carols.”
Levenson is looking forward to Curry’s visit and clearly recalled listening to Curry’s speech when he was elected the 27th presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church in 2015.
“He had no notes and was really speaking to the crowd,” Levenson said. “By the end of the talk, he got a standing ovation. And I was really inspired by what I heard.”
The rector later assembled about a dozen clergy from more traditional churches to connect with Curry in person.
“We spent hours together, and he just listened,” Levenson recalled. “He’s a very good listener.”
Levenson admires Curry’s ability to unite Episcopalians to focus on Jesus as a person. He fondly quoted the presiding bishop saying, “Our church needs an encounter with Jesus Christ again. I’m talking about the person, people need to encounter him in a real and personal way.”
“When you meet him, you just know that he loves the Lord,” Levenson said. “He’s just a great guy.”
Curry was ordained in 1978 and served in parishes in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland before being elected the 11th bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina in 2000.
Now, he serves as chief pastor, president and chief executive officer and chair of the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church.
Curry has been active in social justice issues like racial reconciliation, climate change, immigration policy and marriage equality. He has focused on crisis control ministry, the Absalom Jones initiative of racial healing, creating networks for day care and educational centers and investing in urban neighborhoods.
Originally from Chicago, Curry graduated with high honors from Hobart College in New York and received a Master of Divinity degree from Yale University.
His education continued at the College of Preachers, Princeton Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University, the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary and the Institute of Christian Jewish Studies.
Curry is also the author of five books, including “Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times,” published last year.
Love was also the theme of his sermon at the royal wedding, when he said, “There’s a power to love.”
Curry concluded, “We must discover love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”
Levenson echoed that sentiment. “If you want to change peoples’ behavior, you have to change their hearts,” he said.
“If we ever need a time to be reminded of joy, peace, hope and love, it’s on the heels of this pandemic,” Levenson added. “We’re at a moment, when we have an incredible opportunity to talk about what we really need — and that includes our Lord and being together.”
Lindsay Peyton is a Houston-based freelance writer.