Resolution #2: Adding Mary Oliver to Lesser Feasts and Fasts

Secretary of the Convention

Last Update
October 23rd, 2021

Status
The Convention declined to take action on this resolution on October 23rd, 2021.

Resolved, That the 172nd Convention of the Diocese of California recognizes the poetic treasures and prophetic witness of Mary Jane Oliver, Episcopalian, American poet and lover of all of God’s Creation, whose poetry is frequently used in Episcopal services throughout the Episcopal Church and whose feast day is locally commemorated by institutions of the diocese; and

Resolved, That this Convention submits the following resolution to the 80th General Convention of The Episcopal Church to add Mary Oliver to the calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That this 80th General Convention recognize Mary Jane Oliver, Poet, and her legacy of word which magnifies our place in the family of God’s creation, and as a Servant of God by adding her to the calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts (or such other calendar as may be adopted for the use of The Episcopal Church) with the following text and propers:

Mary Jane Oliver, Poet.

Date of commemoration: January 17

 

Collects

I           God of dirt, we thank thee for the life and written word of Mary Jane Oliver, a bride married to amazement. We give thee thanks for her prolific writing that has opened our hearts to the whimsy and wonder of thy creation and unveiled the improbable beauty present in all thy works. Give us gentleness and grace to see this world through her eyes that we may believe again in kindness, mischief, and singing, to the glory of thy Name, through Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II          God of dirt, we thank you for the life and written word of Mary Jane Oliver, a bride married to amazement. We give you thanks for her prolific writing that has opened our hearts to the whimsy and wonder of your creation and unveiled the improbable beauty present in all your works. Give us gentleness and grace to see this world through her eyes that we may believe again in kindness, mischief, and singing, to the glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lessons and Psalm

Romans 8:18-27
Matthew 6:25-34
Psalm 104:10-24

 

Explanation

It is the normal expectation of Lesser Feasts and Fasts that at least two generations will have passed before someone is included on the calendar. In proposing this resolution, we are proposing to waive that requirement in the case of this individual, recognizing that she is already very widely commemorated within the Episcopal Church:

St. John's, Tallahassee, Florida, has used her poetry for theological exploration and stewardship. Her work has been the focus of Mindful Poetry at Christ Episcopal Church, Anacortes, Washington, and inspired the devotional artwork of iconographer Kelly Latimore, whose depiction of Mary Oliver is prominently displayed in the sanctuary at All Saints Episcopal Church, San Leandro, California. In addition to frequent use of her poetry in liturgies, a Lenten devotional entitled The Poetry of Lent: A Lenten Companion to Mary Oliver's Devotions has been used in congregations throughout The Episcopal Church including All Saints, San Leandro; St. John’s, Cold Springs Harbor, New York; Holy Trinity, Southbridge, Massachusetts; Christ Church, Raleigh, North Carolina; St. Anne’s, Woodstock, Illinois; and St. George’s, Fredericksburg, Virginia; to name a few. 

Inclusion of Mary Oliver would help further The Episcopal Church’s commitment to a diverse representation in the church calendar. Mary Oliver was partnered for over forty years to American photographer Molly Malone Cook and would be one of a small number of openly identifying LGBT persons recognized in Lesser Feasts and Fasts. She was also a survivor of sexual abuse, having spoken publicly about being sexually abused by her father. She overcame great pain and challenges in her life and emerged a beacon of hope and a voice of wonder for the church and world. Recognition of her life witness will be one more step in the path of redemption, healing, and transformation for women, LGBT persons, and survivors of sexual abuse.

Local commemoration for Mary Jane Oliver have already been celebrated by institutions in the Diocese of California on the date her passing, January 17. Mary Oliver’s feast day is commemorated locally by All Saints Episcopal Church, San Leandro, and her feast day is observed by the Communion of the Mystic Rose, a monastic order sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of California and led by the Rev. Br. Brendan E. Williams, and well as throughout the Holy Hikes network of more than 20 hiking ministries. Oliver was a faithful Episcopalian, and her legacy of word magnifies our place in the family of God’s creation. The following biographical testimony, published upon her death on Episcopal Café, witnesses to her spiritual legacy: The Life of Mary Oliver, https://www.episcopalcafe.com/pultizer-prize-winning-poet-mary-oliver-dies-at-83/.

 

This resolution was patterned after passed resolutions by the Diocese of Vermont and New York.

Submitted by
The Rev. Justin R. Cannon, Rector, All Saints, San Leandro and Director, Holy Hikes

Endorsed by 
The Rev. Michael P. Barham, Vicar, Holy Family, Half Moon Bay, Good Shepherd, Belmont
The Rev. Pam Jester, Deacon, All Saints, San Leandro
The Rev. Pamela Cranston, Pastoral Associate, Holy Cross Episcopal Church, Castro Valley
The Rev. Ron Culmer, Rector, St. Clare’s, Pleasanton
The Rev. Mark Spaulding, Rector, Holy Cross, Castro Valley
The Rev. Ari Wolfe, Deacon, St. Columba’s, Inverness
Thomas LaFrance, Lay Associate Rector & Delegate, All Saints, San Leandro
David Crosson, Delegate, St. Mary the Virgin, San Francisco
Julie Holcomb, Parishioner, All Souls, Berkeley
Cynthia Clifford, Delegate, All Souls, Berkeley
Gretchen Donart, Delegate, All Souls, Berkeley
Jennifer Hayes, Delegate, St. Bart’s, Livermore