Sin occurs when people worry more about themselves than others, according to the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, 56, who celebrated Mass Sunday at the Cathedral of All Saints Episcopal Church, read from the Book of Genesis that Adam and Eve ate from the fruit of the forbidden tree after being tempted by the devil. Then they realized that they were naked and became ashamed and hid from God.
“Their ability to delight in the presence of God has been compromised by their excessive self-concern,” she said.
In much the same way, people become preoccupied with everyday concerns. Lent, the time of repentance for Christians in preparation for Easter, is a chance for people to re-examine how much time they spend worrying about themselves versus worrying about others.
“If that balance is distorted, our relationship with God is equally distorted,” she said.
In life-or-death situations such as the earthquake in Japan, Jefferts Schori said, most people are quick to help others.
“The challenge for most of us is to do a better job of it in daily life,” she said.
Much like an athlete has to train for an event, Christians have to train to be less self-absorbed.
“Healing, health and holiness come in finding the balancing between loving self and loving God,” she said. “Lent is a time to practice remembering the world is not always about me. Amazing things can happen when we let go of our own obsession with self and stuff.”
Episcopal churches in the Albany Diocese are working together to make a better world, according to Jefferts Schori.
“They shifted their attention away from internal self-concern and even rivalries to the needs of others,” she said.
St. David’s Church in East Greenbush has been resettling Burmese refugees and providing them housing and employment assistance, according to Jefferts Schori. Volunteers from local Episcopal churches also help staff the Capital City Rescue Mission homeless shelter.
Jefferts Schori, who was elected to a nine-year term in 2006 as the first female leader of The Episcopal Church, is the chief pastor to 2.4 million Episcopalians in 16 countries. She had previously served for about five years as a bishop in Nevada. A former oceanographer, she was ordained in 1994.
She arrived in the Capital Region on Thursday and has been visiting various churches. On Friday, she had dinner with other priests and visited Christ the King Spiritual Life Center in Greenwich. On Saturday, she visited Christ Church in Schenectady and met vocational deacons from the diocese.
Church officials presented Jefferts Schori with a reproduction of a print showing a view of the cathedral looking east and children presented her with some cards. The Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys provided accompaniment for the Mass.
Frank Piccino of Albany said he thought Jefferts Schori was inspiring yet down-to-earth. He had already attended Sunday services at his home church of St. Paul’s but rushed over to see the bishop’s Mass, as did others in his congregation. “This could be the chance of a lifetime,” he said.
Hundreds of Episcopalians from all over the state came to the service, including married couple Nan Clingman and John Dietrich from Canton.
“I thought her message about getting out of ourselves and serving others is exactly what we need to hear,” Dietrich said.
Lynn Nally of Albany, who normally attends St. Andrew’s, said her congregation is also involved in service and has done missions to Haiti, helping rebuild after last year’s devastating earthquake. “We try. That’s all we can do as Christians.”