Saturday, July 11, 2009

General Convention, Day Four

Got up a litle earlier this morning and was present when the House of Deputies went into session at 9:30 a.m. I continue to have the rather cynical sounding question reverberating in my mind: Why so huge and cumbersome a legislative process for a church of slightly over two million members? There is a plea from the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee for both creative and realistic ways of plugging what is likely to be a $15 million income shortfall. I have a solution: Cut the budget, do fewer things, and focus on what we can and are called to uniquely do. I'm also struck by how glacially slow it seems things get done. Presumably the pace will accellerate as legislative committees complete their work and the end of Convention nears, but I frankly almost feel sorry for the Deputies, at least, spending hour after hour plodding through resolution after resolution, any one of which might well be spoken to by at least one person for several minutes. With hundreds of resolutions, it will be a very long remainder of Convention!

After ducking out of the House of Deputies meeting I headed for the daily Community Eucharist where I was asked to be one of the distributors of bread. Though clad in a t-shirt and slacks rather than a nicer outfit, I agreed. After all, how often does one get to distribute bread at a General Convention Eucharist? It was very fun, not least because my friend Maureen was the Deacon in charge of that communion station and the altar guild person there was someone I knew from long ago in the Diocese of California. I really liked the variety of people that came to me for bread--bishops, visitors, young, old, the whole diversity of the Episcopal Church, in fact! Perhaps the most fun, however, was giving communion to the children in the children's choir after they sang. WOW! It was like feeding pigeons--they all wanted a piece of bread, and all at once. It was actually pretty darn exciting. I don't think I've given that many children communion at one service in the entirety of my ordained ministry. Very cool.

After that, I headed for the NNECA (National Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations) lunch, which I thought I'd registered and paid for, but they didn't have my name on the list. So, I sat in back and participated as much as seemed needed. I did split a wrap (sandwich) with one of my seminary classmates (she could only eat half anyway, she said), so I got some food. The Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, was the keynote speaker. He talked about a time when Peter Drucker (of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People fame) filled a bucket with large rocks. He asked the audience if the bucket was full. They said "yes." He then proceeded to pour some gravel in the bucket, filling it with gravel. He asked again if the bucket was full. His audience again replied "yes," but with much less force. He then poured a load of sand in the bucket, again filling it. Once again he asked if the bucket was full. By then there was a definite questioning "yes?" He poured a pitcher of water in, and the bucket was full.

The moral of the story, far from what I thought it might be ("nothing is what it seems" or "there's always room for more," or something equally obvious) was instead "you have to get the rocks in first, otherwise you'll never get them in." He said his rocks were Prayer, Holiness, Purpose, Discipline, and Honor. If you don't get those in your life, he said, everything else fills it up and you can't get that in. He used the example of prayer, which was a great one for me as that sometimes really does slip out of my day without my really knowing or intending it. All in all, an excellent experience.

Following that, both Houses began a marathon 2:30 to 6 p.m. legislative session. I poked into the House of Deputies, heard a few presentations regarding the debate on resolution 2006-B033, but decided to duck out after a half-dozen. It will be interesting to see what General Convention does with the various resolutions having to do with sexuality. Some are direct repeals of B033, others seek to clarify our canons with regard to qualifications for ordination (heterosexuality specifically isn't one), and still others are either canonical changes or changes of policy that would permit some form of same-sex blessings (which B033 doesn't address). It will be interesting to see how all of those resolutions make it through the various legislative committees and which ones make it through which House(s).

I spent from 3 to 4 p.m. saying afternoon prayers (at 3 p.m.) and watching the booth in the exhibition hall which functions as the Convention Chapel. Why the General Convention doesn't have an actual Convention Chapel is beyond me, but they don't. Anglimergent, a group of emergent Anglican folks, solicited donations and put this together. We had four of us for afternoon prayers. Many people walked by and said something like "it's great that this is here" or "what a good idea" but none stopped to actually make use of the space. The cynical part of me thought that was just like some church folks--they want to know that a program is there, even if they don't intend to use it!

Did a little looking around the exhibit hall, walked the 20 minute walk back to my hotel, remembered I was due to go to a CREDO reception, and walked nearly all the way back to the convention center. After the reception I walked back to my hotel and grabbed the shuttle for Downtown Disney. It was fun to wander, but apart from grabbing a late dinner and a hat with Mickey ears, I didn't really buy anything. Now I sit in my room as it approaches 1 a.m. and wonder what I'll do tomorrow. I might possibly try to get to the morning legislative session again (at 9:30 a.m.) or, if I'm feeling particularly lazy, I'll aim for the 11:30 a.m. Eucharist. Since it is my last full day at General Convention (I leave Sunday afternoon), it will likely be the former, or at least arriving early enough to do some shopping before the Eucharist. Until later today...

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