"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Wednesday, July 30, 2003 Today was the first "official" day of Convention (the first day the houses of deputies and bishops were called to order and began organizing themselves and dealing with legislation). Wayne (our bishop) aptly described it as alternating between tedious legislation and infomercials. A pretty accurate description. Things will get more interesting in the days ahead.
Today was also the beginning of our worship life together ... which is one of the high points of a General Convention. You get literally thousands of people together in a room the size of an airplane hangar ... most of them sitting at 200+ round tables so that part of the sermon time can be conversation. The pure scale of it is incredible. Having that many people praying and singing together is nothing short of amazing. Even the shortest liturgical responses roll and echo like waves, and the singing is like being in a giant Cathedral.
But my favorite part is receiving the Eucharist. There are stations all over the hall for people to go up and receive ... and there are lines going every which way that are always moving -- with everyone singing while this is all going on. It FEELS like the Body of Christ -- a living organism with these lines of people like pulsing blood vessels. And in the moments of silence between hymns, all you can hear is the footsteps and the echoes of the ministers saying "the Body of Christ" ... "The Blood of Christ" ... with the words washing over each other.
Friday is my favorite day ... we have the whole morning dedicated to prayer, with meditations by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies.
As far as newsy stuff ... things are slowly starting to pick up speed. There's a really cool resolution about addressing the whole seminarian debt issue ... that got just eviscerated in committee (they turned it from something that had some really great ideas about debt amortization to a study group that will report back in three years -- thereby delaying any action until then). I talked with Wendell Gibbs (bishop of Michigan and a HUGE friend of campus ministry and young adult vocations) about it and he was going to try to reinsert some guts in it in the House of Bishops (where it is now). If not, I'll try to do the same when it hits our house.
The Title III (ordination canons) changes had their hearing today and Douglas Briggs (whose monitoring it for us) reported that most of the speakers were positive. A few spoke against direct ordination, and there was some other minor wrangling over the reduction of the role of standing committees in the ordination process --- but the the vast majority of people spoke in favor. Now it's up to the committee to figure out how to bring this monstrosity to the floor ... but so far, so good.
Oh ... and Eve will be happy to know that we consented to the election of the new bishop of Nebraska!!
A sad note. Robin called today and said her grandmother (her mom's mom), who is 93, might not make it through the night. SHe has stopped eating ... not even eating ice chips. Robin's mom (Suzanne) is on her way to Indianapolis now to try to be with her. Unless she takes a sudden turn for the better, it looks like I'll have to leave convention in the next few days for a day or two to do the funeral. Please keep the family in your prayers.
Steve Scharre just stopped in .... he's a networking fiend! He just came from the Global Missions reception and has been rubbing elbows with people from all over the Anglican Communion (being the token young person and asking for more money for Young Adult Service Corps). He's really in his element here. He has an amazing gift for connecting with people, and is so honestly and authentically passionate about God and the work he's been doing (and so honestly and authentically unimpressed with bullshit!) that it really makes an impression. It's great having him and Steph here.
Well, gotta be at committee at 7 a.m. so it's time to get some sleep. Be well, everyone. And keep us in your prayers.
P.S. - for those of you who are new to blogging who asked, the "shout out" function is a way you can leave a message in response to what you read -- one that I and others can read.
| Mike at 7/30/2003 11:08:00 PM
Tuesday, July 29, 2003 I am EXHAUSTED ... and Convention hasn't even had it's first official day yet!
Today was nonstop from my 7 am wake-up call to now as I've put the finishing touches on a proposed resolution to urge Congress to restore $1 billion in funding to the foreign aid budget for HIV/AIDS in Africa. But it's one of those days that was so full of so much that was powerful and wonderful that you feel like you have really lived.
A few snapshots:
*Having a chat with Reynolds Cheney, the chair of my legislative committee (National and International Concerns ... I get to work with him as his vice-chair), about his former parishioners, Tom and Leine McNeely -- whom he fondly remembers -- and about Julia.
*Having the bishop of Massachusetts, Tom Shaw, who is also a brother at SSJE, lead us in a period of meditation and breath prayer before the beginning of our legislative committee meeting.
*Having lunch with Mike Clark and good friend Michael Burke -- a priest from Alaska -- and hearing Michael tell a story about how he and his wife "kidnapped" a parishioner who was depressed about being laid off and took him "dip-net fishing" for three days to get him out of the house.
*Hearing the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies once again inspire us to strive to seek Christ in each other and to own Christ's call to us to work tirelessly for global justice.
*Watching Steph in action bringing her amazing knowledge of health-care issues to bear in our subcommittee on HIV/AIDS and health ... and seeing her really cooly decorated Nalgene (sp?) bottle.
*Being educated by two women telling stories about women they had interviewed who had been brought into America, and across borders into other countries and sold into service in the sex trade. This was part of testimony for a resolution encouraging the church to take a more active role in the fight against trafficking of women, girls and boys.
*Hanging out for an hour with a group of younger deputies and seeing their excitement for the church.
and there's so much more. This is an amazing gathering of amazing people. People who care so much. People who love God so much. I'm exhausted but energized ... if that makes sense. And definitely inspired.
But there's always the other side. Apparently there's a group of 13 bishops who are threatening to reduce their diocese's assessments (the amount their diocese pays to the National CHurch to keep it afloat) down to one dollar if Gene Robinson in consented to and/or the resolution on same-sex blessings passes. This would be a huge blow to the church budget -- and having just sat through a budget crunch in our own diocese, I know what it's like to suddenly realize you have a lot less money than you thought!
But most of all, it's just sad. I'm hoping it's just an empty threat ... because if it isn't, it's just hostage taking. I hope we have the courage as a church to go ahead and budget not for what we think we have the money for but for what we truly believe God is calling us to do. It is a time for us to step out in faith, not shrink back in fear. Time will tell.
Overall, I'm happy and hopeful. Our worship time together starts tomorrow morning -- my favorite part of convention -- and I'm confident in the power of prayer and liturgy to bind us together.
Please keep us in our prayers. Know that you all are in mine.
(p.s. -- the Shout Out feature was down for awhile ... I think it works again now).
It's after midnight and I'm just back from a great gathering of some of the younger people here at General Convention (of course, in the Episcopal Church, that means anyone under 40!). It was a great mixture of old friends and lots of people I'd never met before. Steph and Steve are both here, and it's great to see both of them. Steve is looking great coming off all his time in Tanzania and his travel. I can't wait to see the video presentation he has.
I was at a meeting of the officers of the legislative committees today, and the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies both spoke to us. They give me great confidence that our church has the leadership it needs to take us through what will be a difficult two weeks in many ways. Both called on all of us as leaders to embody the best of what Christ calls us to be ... people who can love each other across ideological lines.
The last time General COnvention was in Minneapolis was 1978. Just like today, people were saying that something was going to happen that was going to split the church ... the removal of the barriers of ordination for women. But the Holy Spirit moved ... and the church didn't split. And I believe it didn't split for two reasons. First, that the ties with which God binds us to gether really are stronger than those forces that would tear us apart. Second, that people, when push came to shove, didn't shove but embraced each other despite a legislative process that created winners and losers.
I guess I'm hoping two things going into Convention. The first is that whatever we decide regarding same-sex blessings and the consecration of Gene Robinson, that we can remember that we ARE the Body of Christ and that the communion we share is a divine reality, not a human construct. And that our choice is not whether we wish to be in communion or not -- we are whether we like it or not -- but whether we will follow Christ's call to live into the reality of the communion God has already created.
The second is that the many, many, many other important things that will happen these two weeks that don't happen to involve human sexuality -- things like the push for global economic and social justice, making the ordination canons friendlier for young adults, empowering the ministry of the diaconate, strengthening campus ministries, and many others -- won't get lost in the media circus.
Pray for us. As I've said ... I'm looking forward to it. THere are so many amazing and wonderful people here. God is present.
Thank you for all who kept my parents in prayer today. My dad's procedure went amazingly well. Just as with Joe's dad, they did the angiogram, found no blockages so they didn't have to do the angioplasty. He's back home tonight!
Sunday, July 27, 2003 I'm in Minneapolis for the ESMHE conference (Episcopal Campus Ministries), but I ditched out of our morning Eucharist today and walked a couple miles to a place called Spirit Garage (www.spiritgarage.org) . It's a non-denominational church sponsored by an ELCA (Lutheran) church.
It was fabulous! It's housed in a neighborhood theatre ... the seats are all up on risers and form a semicircle around the stage, which is where the altar and the band are set up. The music was phenomenal. THey have one main (paid) music leader (a really great bass player) and the rest of the musicians are people from the congregation -- a really eclectic group that includes not just guitar and drums but a cello and even an accordion for one song.
The music was amazing ... but the whole spirit of the place was amazing. It was about 70-80 people, mostly in their 20s and 30s but some older, and some small children.
What it was most of all was authentic to the people who were there. It was a church in an arts neighborhood and that's what it felt like ... it was worship and community that was generated from this community of people. It wasn't something that tried to take a community and turn it into something else. And the beauty of it was it's complete simplicity. I think there are ways that we have replicated the spirit of it to some extent with ECM ... but it also gave me a taste of how much deeper we can go.
I also think it's something that would be a great model for a ministry on a place like the Loop.
I'm going back next week ... and I hope to take other people with me. We need to start looking at these models ...and not just looking at them but trying them out. Not just because there are so many people out there who wouldn't be caught dead in our churches who would really groove on Christian community like this ... but because this community (and others like it) are so amazingly joyful--and I think our church is in big need of an injection of that!
Convention starts tomorrow in terms of the official pre-convention meetings. I am excited and full of hope. God is here. ... and tomorrow Steph will be here too, so that'll be a lot of fun!
On another note, my father is going in for a minor heart procedure tomorrow (Monday) morning -- it's the same procedure (angiogram with possible angioplasty) that Joe's dad had, and my dad has had one before. It's very routine, but please keep him and my mom (Tom and Jackie) in your prayers.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."