From a behind-the-scenes perspective, General Convention 2015 really begins on Sunday morning, June 23rd. I arrive at the loading dock in the back of the Salt Palace Convention Center promptly at 8:30 am, assuming I’d be the only one making a delivery. I am wrong. Tractor trailers from all over the US are parked and unloading their contents into the exhibit hall–the site where many veteran deputies will tell you is where the real work often takes place. But at this moment I’m here to unload a truck full of books and ministry resources for the Forward Movement booth (@fwd_mvt). As the day unfolds, other booths take form out of shipping crates, staff and vendors begin to arrive, and the Episcopal version of Brigadoon resurfaces for its triennial manifestation.
Monday means more set up. Frantic trips to Target and IKEA are the order of the day for last-minute items needed to complete a booth or staff work station. And during the day, they begin to arrive. A clergy collar here, a purple shirt there, a lay deputy with tell-tale badges from Conventions past. They arrive in trickles at first, but later in a deluge. They are on the buses and trains, climbing out of taxis and shuttles. As my daughter and I take a stroll Monday evening, I spot no fewer than 28 deputies, 8 bishops and one Presiding bishop nominee.
As days blur together, the daily schedule begins to fill. As Tuesday morning dawns, the bulk of the Lexington deputation make their way into town. Registration, hotel check in, lunch, and our first deputation caucus help us all find our bearings and find a few laughs. The evening ends with some of us attending legislative hearings. On my way back from one of these, I run into an old friend. She claims this is her last General Convention. It is in the moment of our catching up that I remember one of the more important reasons why we as a Church carry out this gigantic undertaking every three years and why it needs to continue. It’s about relationships. This applies at every level of the Church. Whether it’s at the local parish or the worldwide communion, we are only as strong as our relationships with one another–both those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree.
One highlight of the Wednesday session–once we all got past orientation–is hearing from the four Presiding Bishop nominees. Whoever your favorite might be, we will be blessed as a Church no matter who is elected this Saturday.
Another moment of inspiration is the opening speech by the Rev’d Gay Jennings, president of the House of Deputies. Her handling of this opening session was one of grace and confidence. I am grateful for her leadership and her ability to see the opportunities that lie ahead of us as a Church, and not to get stuck in the echo chamber of the management of institutional decline. It is only arrogance that convinces us our problems are greater than any the Church has seen, and it is faithlessness that convinces us God will not provide for this hour of need.
My hope and prayer for this 78th General Convention is that we see the hope that God has put before us, that we have the will to embrace it and the courage to pursue God’s future for us, rather than live in our all too-small dreams for ourselves.
Jeff Queen, St. Andrew’s, Ft. Thomas