Outward And Visible Signs

April 19th, 2018

The Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church defines sacraments as “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.”

Maybe it’s me, but I’m pretty sure I saw some of those today.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, April 20, 2018, and in The Memphis News, April 21-27, 2018

Photo: Jeff White



I was recently asked to address “how my faith shapes what I do in the world” as part of a Spiritual Speakers Series. Me, people. In a chapel. The request alone passeth all understanding.

I was reminded of a Sunday years ago when I was serving as a chalice bearer, Nora was a reader, one of our children carried the cross in the procession and the other was an acolyte. One of our friends in the congregation heard someone say, “That’s way too many Conaways way too far up there.”


I’ve always been suspicious of people who wear their faith like a neon sign and expect others to be warmed by the glow. I’m equally suspicious of those whose faith eliminates their curiosity, whose dogma is beyond question, whose minds and lives are beyond growth, discovery and inclusion – who are sure I’m going straight to hell.

Bless their hearts.

This morning, I was the guest of fourth-grader J.B. Hoehn at the Grace-St. Luke’s School Citizenship Breakfast, a room full of tomorrow. For J.B. and his classmates everything is still possible, and tomorrow, they can make that true for every fourth-grader.

Later, I picked up my dog at play care, who saw me across the yard and led a charge of 20 dogs to the fence to greet me with unbridled joy in the moment.

I have faith in kids. And in dogs.

At lunch as I read my emails over a stack of pancakes – yes, pancakes can be lunch – there was a deep discussion going on between five African-American men in the booth behind me. One said, “You can’t love you inside, unless you love folks outside.” Here endeth the lesson.

I have faith in love. And in pancakes.

In the afternoon, I had a meeting at Elmwood Cemetery and in the peace there, in the history there, I once again felt hope for the future in the presence of the past, in the sure and certain knowledge that there are larger truths than present problems. I have that same feeling around oceans, and on mountains, and in storms.

I have faith in hope. And in cemeteries.

I believe in a power great enough to have created everything, and that there is a plan for everything, and that all of that is far beyond my comprehension, but deserves my attention, appreciation and awe. I believe that great power is also sensitive enough to drive a single tear, a single smile, a single thought. And I believe what you believe to be your business, not mine.

I have faith in God. And in reason. And in science.

There is great pleasure in the simple, and simple pleasure in the great. And there is a great deal of both readily apparent if we simply look for it.

I find my faith in the world around me every day, I find it challenged every day, and I look for ways to strengthen it.

I’m a Memphian, and I look forward to tomorrow.


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