It has been a long couple of days as we continue to make our way through almost 700 resolutions of this 78th General Convention. Yesterday was a very busy day, testified to two different resolutions. You can read my comments here and here. Today was likewise a long and busy day but for different reasons.
I want to stress one thing about today – It. Was. Long.
Like any other day, today began with corporate worship. Worship was followed by a joint session of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops to have a conversation around mission. We spent two hours watching videos for each of the five marks of mission, and then as a Diocese discussing three questions per mark of mission. To add to the conversation, the President of the House of Deputies allowed for alternates and the Episcopal Church Women to come on to the follow and join their respective diocese. From RI we had a pretty large group – 2 bishops, 8 deputies, 2 alternates, and 3 members of ECW. For those of you who do not know, the Five Marks of Mission are:
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
I thought some of the questions were pretty good, questions like, “what is the connection between outreach and evangelism?” and “What Diocesan structures are in place that enhance or impede mission?” Unfortunately I did not find the time particularly helpful. I’m all for the concept of what we did, but 12 minutes for 15 people to talk about 3 questions just isn’t enough. I could imagine that a smaller group, with a little more time, could do some wonderful things with the exercise given to us today. After two hours that session was drawn to a close with a presentation honoring the current Presiding Bishop.
After lunch it was back to the House of Deputies to get some work done. We were slated to have a five-hour session. Did I mention this was a long day? After prayer, and several points of personal privilege (a personal pet peeve of mine) we got to work. After 3 hours we made it through 3 resolutions and some more presentations – including a presentation for the 75th Anniversary for Episcopal Relief and Development. Then it was time to move to the structure resolutions. This is where things came to a grinding halt, or at least that is what it felt like. There was a presentation from the Chair of the Structure Committee, and then a period of twenty minutes for questions that the HoD extended to allow for 12 more questions. Once all the questions were answered, we moved to debate only to discover that the material had not been properly translated – or translated at all for that manner. So we tabled the conversation and moved on only to discover that the remaining resolutions for the day also lacked a translated version. With around an hour of our session left we adjourned for the day to allow for translations to be completed. It was incredibly frustrating, and I am not a deputy that needs the translation. However, ending early allowed for many deputies to get to their seminary dinners on time.
One tradition at General Convention is that each Episcopal Seminary hosts a dinner for alum and current students. The dinners serve as a fundraising opportunity for the schools and as a time to gather with others in fellowship. Tonight was incredibly exciting for me personally as it was my first seminary dinner. For the previous three triennia I have watched as my clergy colleagues have gone off to their respective dinners, and for the first time I was able to join.
The Berkeley Divinity School dinner was held at a lovely hotel a half mile or so from my hotel. We had an amazing meal, but more importantly I had the opportunity to talk with a wide variety of talented alumni. The room was packed with bishops, priests, and laity; with alumni who graduated decades ago to current students like myself. In every conversation about Berkeley, my Bishop, who in the interest of full disclosure is a BDS grad himself, told me of the amazing people I would study with and the amazing people I would stand in line with. After tonight’s dinner I came to understand that in a new way. Berkeley Divinity graduates are amongst some of the best and brightest in The Episcopal Church, all of whom are engaged in amazing things around the country and world. It was an inspiring group to be amongst, and a humbling one as well. In just two short years I will take my place as an alumnus of Berkeley Divinity School, there are some pretty large foot steps to follow.
Tomorrow is another day – day 7 to be exact. There is a lot left to do. Tomorrow’s agenda includes structure conversations, marriage debates, budget presentations to yet another joint session, and a slew of resolutions to consider. It will be long, and I am confident that at times it will be frustrating. But we are doing good work.
Please, please pray for us. Pray for strength to persevere through the frustration and exhaustion. Pray that we do not get bogged down and lose sight of what is really important. Pray that we remember to be kind to one another. Most importantly, pray that the may be open and receptive to how God is working in and through so that we may continue shaping and forming The Episcopal Church to go out and do the work God has given us to do.