Before hundreds of congregants at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Lodi, Calif., Bonnie Anderson said her name and three words: "I'm an Episcopalian."
The crowd rose for a standing ovation.
St. John's is one of only three churches among 48 in the diocese likely to remain with the Episcopal church.
The service Anderson led Saturday _ which she, the national church's top-ranking elected lay person, flew cross-country to lead _ offered a unique and historic glimmer of what it would mean if dissenters and supporters of the Episcopal Church in the United States all worshiped together.
"We are the followers of Jesus, gathered," Anderson said in a sermon on the idea that the work of Jesus _ and the unity of the church _ lies in social action.
Bishop John-David Schofield, who heads the diocese and its preparations to be the first to leave the 2.3 million-member Episcopal Church, sat in the first row. Conservative clergy and parishioners from across Northern California also came.
Schofield drank from a communion goblet extended to him by Anderson, the president of the House of Deputies in the Episcopal Church, whose authority Schofield rejects. And Schofield and others sang hymns of unity, such as "All are Welcome" and "The Church's One Foundation."
But unity was sometimes scarce during four hours of meetings after the service.
Duke Divinity School professor David Steinmetz says the Anglican Communion is unique and significant to all Christians because it is the biggest, most unified Protestant group on the planet.Perhaps we are trying to do something that is unnatural.
"Everybody is watching the Episcopal Church to see how this goes," said Steinmetz, who is a Methodist. "If it comes apart, in a way, it's too bad because it's about Protestantism's only entry into this kind of global sweepstakes, a kind of international church that tries to regulate itself internationally."