“I am not trying to play humble,” says Presiding Bishop Michael Curry when asked about the global headlines that followed his May 19 sermon on the power of love at the televised wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at England’s Windsor Castle.
“But I didn’t have much expectation beforehand and we were not allowed to use our cellphones there and afterward I accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury to a youth rally so it wasn’t until much later when I was at Heathrow Airport that I looked at my phone and wondered why I had so many messages.”
The charismatic preacher who is the first African American to be elected Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church will take part in a one-day revival this weekend in the commonwealth sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts and the Episcopal Church.
Curry will preach Sunday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m., at the First United Methodist Church in the Berkshire County city of Pittsfield, and at 5 p.m. at the Hanover Theatre of Performing Arts in Worcester.
Its theme, “Rekindling Hope, Sharing Light, Loving Jesus,” the result of a year’s planning around what would meet the needs of the members of the diocese’s more that 50 parishes, fits Curry’s abiding belief in the transforming power of sacrificial love that he sees as embedded in his Christian faith.
“The theme is right on time. It fits the love Jesus of Nazareth was talking about,” Curry said.
“Hope casts out despair, light brings love and love is the way.”
He adds, “I hope I can be an evangelist of some really good news.”
“The message that is central to me is the message that Jesus taught that love is the way to create human community and I am not talking about sentimental love.”
Curry packed much about love into his 13-minute royal wedding sermon which he said was based on the biblical reading from the “Song of Solomon” chosen by the royal couple.
“It is a book in the Bible that is overlooked and early in the book a couple expresses love for each other and later the woman begins to sense their human experience of love has an origin greater than either one them or both together,” Curry said.
“So, my sermon followed the pattern of the text itself.”
The sermon did weave in quotes from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 20th century French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
Curry acknowledged that Teilhard, who studied paleontology as well as geology, can be a “pretty dense read,” but said he could not resist paraphrasing Teilhard’s quote, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
“I read philosophers like Ayn Rand in college who taught selfishness is the way, and that is hogwash,” Curry said.
“You will not have human civilization long where the guiding principles are might makes right.”
“Christ,” he added, referenced love “16 times during the Last Supper.”
“He talks about wrestling with the sacrifice he was going to make to show the way to others,” Curry said.
“The love he was talking about is not self-centered but directed to others.”
Curry, who has a ready sense of humor, noted that “it is nice to be doing a revival in New England” where Connecticut-born Jonathan Edwards helped spur the 18th century religious revival known as the “Great Awakening.”
He said he hoped Sunday’s revival would help do the same.
“We will have the equivalent of a football game without the intermission,” said Curry, confident in his ability in the short time period to help attendees “hear the message of good news about the way of love and think about whether this is something I want to do with my life right now.”
Curry admits that “we have work to do” in “catalyzing the better angels of our nature to make a collective decision that we are going to take loving our neighbor as we love ourselves seriously.”
“We have work to do but we can do it,” Curry said.
“In our best moments we have done it.”
Curry said he hoped his message of the redemptive power of love in his royal wedding sermon will continue to resonant over time as a message of “real hope.”
“I am very aware that the messenger only delivers the message,” Curry said.
Shortly after his royal engagement, Curry led a prayer vigil outside the White House for policies more directed at the United States being part of the international community and two months later was among those who prayed outside a Texas detention center for women run by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We are children of one God who has created us all,” Curry said.
“And we should be living that way and as instruments of God’s love in the world.”
Curry, who visited Springfield last October for the 200th anniversary of Christ Church Cathedral, said he enjoyed seeing the “good work” the diocese does in its outreach.
He added he told diocesan Bishop Douglas Fisher, who did a getting-to-know you 170-mile pilgrimage around the diocese, that next time he would follow along by car.
Curry said he was “doing well” after undergoing recent surgery for prostate cancer that he said was detected early during a routine examine. It is a cancer not always detected early in African-Americans and he said he now encourages men to get regular check-ups.
The Worcester gathering will include a procession from Fuller Park at 4:30 p.m. as well as a program featuring faith sharing and the combined choirs of churches throughout the diocese.
The Rev. Victoria Ix, diocesan communications director, said tickets for the revival were free and all are taken for the 2,300-seat Hanover Theatre, and for the Pittsfield venue at First United that seats 1,100 people.
However, people can still registered for overflow seating with video screen at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Pittsfield.
“We started planning the revival last October. There is a great deal of excitement and pride among Episcopalians to share their faith through prayer, the gospel and great music,” Ix said.
People have also been encouraged to bring a friend so there may be people who have never set foot in a church and that is the evangelism piece of a revival.”
Ix added, “Both events will be live streamed so the revival “will go far and wide.”