Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An apology

While I had every good intention of "blogging" during General Convention I didn't because I was really engaged on the ground this time in a way I had not been before. In previous General Conventions I had not been assigned to a Committee. This year was different. I was assigned to "Committee 13" Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music.

Previously I spent the mornings leisurely, sleeping until 8 or 9 some mornings, having a quiet breakfast alone or with fellow Deputies. Making it to the plenaries in plenty of time to grab some coffee or a soda. This time was NOT like that at all....

A typical schedule for me:

7:30 Committee Meeting until 9 (eating a Granola Bar at the meeting if I was lucky)
10 House of Deputies Legislative Session
11:45 Eucharist
12:30 Chicago Consultation Strategy meeting (grabbing something for luncg to take on the way)
2:00 House of Deputies Legislative Session )until 6 or so.
6-7 A bar food supper
7:30 Hearings, Seminary Dinners, The Good Archbishop, Supplemental Committee 13 meetings, The Integrity Eucharist, etc etc
9pm Arrival back at Hotel Bar for a much needed martini and debriefing with fellow Deputies and Committee 13 members, catching up with old friends and Diocese of Bethlehem folks.
11-12 Dropping into bed exausted, but OK.

Get up the next day and start it all over again...

So THATS why I didn't get to blog!

BUT I did get to contribute to the legislation which resulted in out moving ahead on same-gender unions. I served on both the Committee which presented the legislation and the sub committee which drafted the initial legislation of committee consideration. Its called a "cognate committee" as both Houses have a PB, L and M committee and we almost always met together except on a few occasions when we met seperately to discuss matters specific to our House's political dynamics.

The Committee was diverse....LGBT folks, Straight folks, the Province IV corner of Bishops (as I called it as they sat together in one corner of our large square), women/men, all provinces and one overseas diocese there.

The leadership of the Deputies committee was superb---Sam Candler of Atlanta (and fellow Seminary classmate) abley chaired our group, Secretary Ruth Meyers (Chicago) worked tirelessly to ensure that every jot and tittle was recorded correctly, Susan Williams (W-NY)served as vice-chair. For Bishops Wayne Smith (Mo) served as their chair, Paul Marshall (Bethlehem and my Bishop served as Vice-Chair).

It was not an easy row to hoe. Many from conservative dioceses feared going back and having to defend same-gender blessings to their more conservative elements--this especially seemed on the minds of Bishops. Others were from states that already had same-gender civil union law and desired a liturgical expression to offer to those couples in their diocese. In the end I believe it was the society that led the Church. The increasing number of States with Civil Law which supported same gender unions forced the hand of the Church in a way that a more nuetral cultural environment would not have.

There was some difficult truth-telling sessions on the Committee. But we listened to each other in a way which did not need to be agreed with or disagreed with. We tried to give everyone at the table a bit of "wiggle room" and to take something away which they could be comfortable talking about in their post-General Convention meetings with their Dioceses. These were the holy moments for me. They moved me to not be so dug in but to open my heart and mind to someone who did not hold the same opinions that I did, and see them as part of me in this marvelous Episcopal Church. I wanted to help them and myslef stay in as much relationship as possible without compromising either's integrity. I think we accomplished that.

I tell people that the feeling I took away from Anaheim was far better than those of the past General Conventions. The media circus brought on by the conservative dioceses (many of whom have either been deposed or left the Episcopal Church) was not present in the same concentration as before. When left alone, the Church can make forward thinking decisions. When held hostage by an irresponsible and sensational media it doesn't do so well and becomes fearful---and fear is a spirit-buster (ask the Gospels).

I was proud of the Church for doing the right (Rite) thing when the moment of decision faced her. Truly the Spirit did move and work in marvelous and wonderful ways and while we all didn't leave singing "Kum Bayah" withe folded arms around the campfire---we came damn close!



Friday, July 10, 2009

After two days of working in committee’s (I serve on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music along with my Bishop) we began the first legislative day at 8am and organized ourselves electing Bonnie Anderson (Dio. of Michigan); The Rev. Brian Prior (Dio. Of Spokane) and The Rev. Gregory Straub (Dio of Easton) N. Curt Barnes (Treasurer).

In an old custom, two deputies were sent to the House of Bishops to inform them that we are organized and ready to do business. And, in turn two bishops arrived and informed the House of Deputies that the House of Bishop’s is organized and ready for business. These are gracious customs and set a groundwork of cooperation and mutuality between bishops laity and clergy in the next 14 days. There is always tension at various points between the Houses and these tensions can yield wise and gospel oriented decisions. Tension can be good, but it is also to be handled with gentle conversation, prayer and integrity.

We begin with worship and Eucharist. We hope to embody the theme “Umbuntu” – I am because of you---is a hope, goal and dream of this gathering.

We also gather as diocesan groups for practice in "public narrative" or telling our stories about why our passions, mission and spirituality are the way they are.

Preachers so far---The Presiding Bishop and Rowan Williams. Rowan's sermon was actually OK with a little anxiety around legislation that would make his role more difficult. But he was soft sell on this in my opinion as he preached this before all the attendees--deputies, bishops, alternates, visitors, Triennial delegates and a host of volunteers and exhibitors.

My work on Committee 13 (Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music) requires I spend from 7-7:30am til sometimes 9pm in committee. With umbuntu groups, worship and plenary sessions of the House of Deputies in between.

More later....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The trip and safe arrival on the Toddler Plane!

I have to admit, as flights and times went I can't complain. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) Lady at the gate in Allentown tried to take my toothpaste in the name of National Security. Being the hard headed type I guessed this was all an evil plot promoted by the toothpaste manufacturer's themselves in order to make travellers buy TWO tubes ---the one you have to throw away at the airport and the one ya buy after your final destination. I went back up and put it in my already checked suitcase which had to be re-checked again by TSA.

The flight from ABE to Cleveland was just fine --- mostly sleepy business travellers with laptops, I-Phones and Blackberry's. Then a quick change of planes in at Cleveland Hopkins and then off to LA.

This flight was not the most pleasant. I was surrounded by LOTS of toddlers (maybe 6 or more). One right behind me on his parent's lap and who gave my seat a good kick every time I was almost asleep. There were lots of whiners and criers and one or two up and down the aisle types. One mother thought we would all enjoy having her child touch our legs as he went up the aisle and didn't bother to correct the child as he fiddled with the emergency door latch. I gently slipped the buckle of my seatbelt back in place as my mind went to the child perhaps opening the emergency door and being sucked out along with Mom and other sibling---problem solved I thought....

Finally we landed and Laura picked my up at Terminal 6 at LAX. We drove southeast to Anaheim. The weather was sunny and very cool in LA but warmer here in more inland Anaheim. Laura and I had lunch after I checked in and found my room in the labyrinth this place is! I need a GPS devise or breadcrumbs to find my room each time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Day Before

Coming into Los Angeles
Bringing in a couple of keys
Don't touch my bags if you please
Mister Customs Man

----Arlo Guthrie

Ok... Well here I am on the threshold of another General Convention of the Episcopal Church and I leave tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM from Allentown to Cleveland and then from there to LAX where my friend Laura is picking me up and depositing me at the Anaheim Hilton.

My big, fat red suitcase is full of mostly clothing and toiletries. All the errands that consume you prior to a 15 day trip have put me on overload. Buying more underwear, shorts (after all it IS California), washing every thread of clothing I have, picking up a suit at the dry cleaner, getting a bunch of cash, confirming flight on-line, filling prescriptions and counting pills (golly I wouldn't want to be without my "dolls" in California!), getting enough Dramamine and Melatonin from my friend Dixie to knock me out so I won't wake up until LAX, taking the dog to "puppy camp", BUYING a suitcase, signing up for Boingo, remembering to bring my stole and Prayer Book/Hymnal, charging the camera batteries, the list goes on and on. I won't be bringing a "couple of keys" but I will be shlepping a suitcase, backpack and garment bag.

I think of the Gospel lesson this morning where Jesus sent out his disciples with only a staff. Clearly, Jesus was not sending the 12 Disciples to the General Convention! I think I would not last long at the GC if I only had the clothes on my back and a big stick (not even a toothbrush???)

I am full of excitement, anticipation and responsibility to the Church in a strange way to make thoughtful, theological and Anglican decisons--although my friend Patrick and I had a debate just last night on what constituted "Anglican". I will see old friends, make new ones, and get an experience of the Episcopal Church that, bar none, gives you as close an experience of its breadth and diversity as possible. When I sidle up to the word "catholic" in the creed my mind goes to images from being part of this once-every-three-year event. Its absolutely phenomenal.

Tomorrow it starts at 3am when I rise, drink coffee, shower, throw the last minute stuff into my bags and wait for Mike to pick me up at 5am to make my 6:30am flight from ABE International to Cleveland, then a big plane across the continent to the City of Angels. Pray for me, pray for us, and pray that God's will be done in all things the next 2 weeks. A parishioner sent me a quote from EB White which aptly conveys my attitude in most of life but particularly on the verge of General Convention....

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult. ~ E.B. White

I pray always to be able to do both! Stay tuned!