Today is the last day of the 79th General Convention in Austin, TX. I will begin this day in the House of Deputies serving as an Alternate Deputy. There will be nine hours in the legislative session, so I am writing this early because I may need to relieve a lay delegate currently serving on the floor, sometime later today. I have taken the responsibility of my position very seriously. I’ve had the opportunity to attend legislative committee meetings and hear testimony on several issues of concern to me and our church.
Some of the meetings I’ve attended were on the topics of Prayer Book Revision, Marriage Rites of the Whole Church, the use of Expansive Language in Liturgical Resources, Safeguarding and Title IV. The testimonies heard were eye-opening, heart wrenching and in some instances, mind changing. When I thought about voting for a particular resolution, the testimonies I witnessed were not forgotten. I was privileged to vote on several issues. I give thanks to my colleagues for this opportunity.
My most exciting day was on day 7, when we were called to vote on Resolution, A238, to readmit the Episcopal Diocese of Cuba as a diocese of the Episcopal Church. This was a historic vote and I was honored to be a part of it.All of my time here has not been spent sitting in meetings.
We’ve had fun as deputation as we shared meals, conversation, and worship. Making new acquaintances, running into long-time friends from other dioceses, visiting the exhibit hall, and going out in mission to love and serve those living on the streets of Austin has been incredibly exciting.I will leave Convention tomorrow a proud member of the Episcopal Church, with a great sense of hope.
This is an exciting and hopeful time for us. We have been shown how to have a Revival, Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry style! It has been an uplifting experience.
We have been given the tools we need, to go out and serve our brothers and sisters in our communities and the world as dioceses, convocations, and parishes of The Episcopal Church. My hope is that, together, we can be a more vibrant example of love, the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With God’s grace, we can do the work we have been given to do.Cathy Cummings Rippeon, Lay Alternate to General Convention
St. Andrew’s in the Valley, Harrisburg
Color blocks, breakfast tacos and making a difference
A word about our schedule. It consists of colored-coded blocks so you know what’s going on in the course of the day. Legislative meetings are represented by blue blocks, worship is green, joint sessions are a different shade of green, deputy certification is orange, and legislative sessions are pink. At the beginning of General Convention, the days were rainbow colored, a little bit of this, a little bit of that.
Now that we are in the last two days of General Convention, our days are dominated by huge pink blocks. We have almost 8 hours of legislative session today (Thursday) and 9 hours tomorrow. So this morning began the long slog to the end.And make no mistake; it is a long slog. This morning’s four-hour block of debate and deliberation is a long time to sit still and pay attention. Thankfully, our sessions are broken up by prayer, bits of humor, and bathroom breaks.
A couple of days ago, we were told that the total number of resolutions we would be considering was over 500. We were also given this tip, “The consent calendar is your friend.” For inquiring minds who want to know, the consent calendar is a list of resolutions that we vote on in one fell swoop.
Just now we cleared 44 resolutions from our plate in the course of fewer than 5 minutes. That’s good news because it took us 3 ½ hours to get through about 10 resolutions this morning, and we have 31 more on this afternoon’s schedule.And these resolutions range from courtesy resolutions such as A288 “Gratitude for the Children’s Program (Yes, people bring their children to General Convention, and there is a program of activities for them) to more in-depth resolutions.
Earlier this morning, we passed The Episcopal Church’s budget of $134,000,000 for the next three years.And sitting through hours and hours of legislative meetings, hearings, debate, and deliberation, I have to wonder if any of this will make a difference, especially when a lot of the resolutions are worded thusly: “that Executive Council be encouraged to… .,” or “that dioceses be requested to . . .” Are we making a difference? Yes, we are.
Keeping a sense of humor while doing serious work
Wow, What a Day! The longest day yet of this General Convention. If we were tired before, we better buckle up and push through the 20-mile ‘wall’ of this marathon convention. As I sat down to write this at 11:40 pm, when finished with all my work, forgive me if I ramble or make little sense. Thank God we have prayer to center us at the start and finish of every session.We are at Day 7 in the Legislative Calendar, which means all Deputies and Bishops have been working 10 to 12 plus hours a day. Committee work started two days before the legislative calendar, so we are really in Day 9 of these long hours.
This is my first convention as a Lay Deputy of the House. I have been a Delegate to the ECW Triennial at past conventions, which is the Women’s arm of the Convention. This is a very different experience.The most exciting action of the first legislative session was voting to bring Cuba back into the fold of The Episcopal Church!!! They have been alone and isolated since 1966 across the Atlantic ocean from Florida, so close and yet so far away. A wonderful celebration erupted as the unanimous vote was posted on the screen and the Bishop of Cuba was brought to the dais. With flags waving, she gave a speech that was grateful, passionate, and had the Deputies in tears as the true realization that the lonely isolation would now come to an end for the Episcopalians residing in Cuba, definitely a high point of the convention for me.
The second session of the morning was a Joint Session with the Bishops and House to be presented with the budget from Program, Budget & Finance (PB&F) (I call them PB&J) for the next three-year triennium. The total budget is $133,859,584. That is a lot of money!
There are three main areas the budget addresses; Evangelism, Reconciliation and Justice, and the Care of Creation. Lots and lots of good hard work to spread the Good News of Jesus, bring peace and justice around the world and of course, care for our fragile earth and its’ resources. (Although every Deputy in the House is bundled up with teeth chattering, I am offering my neck to warm up hands of those around me. I am literally the only person who is happy with the temperature of the huge cavernous hall we occupy. 😊) In all seriousness, the budget is big, but the work that will be accomplished within it for people around the world is bigger.Another legislative session with a huge worship service following took up the rest afternoon. We had a quick dinner at a taco place across the street from the convention center.
I was very adventurous and ordered brisket tacos with a blueberry sauce – fabulous! Who would have guessed?A special legislative session from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. was called, so the House of Deputies could catch up on the legislative calendar of resolutions. A special Twitter hashtag was opened, #gcafterdark. You can imagine all matter of foolishness on the feed. Resolutions were presented, debated, passed or rejected for over two hours. At 9:45 p.m., the House was adjourned and you might think we were done for the night – Nope!!
Our delegation gathered in the hotel meeting room to put together bags for the homeless population. These bags were stuffed with toiletries we’d been saving from the hotel, granola bars, apples, string cheese and other small treats. They will be distributed in the morning to the huge homeless population.
According to our shuttle driver from the airport, Austin has the largest homeless population in Texas. Most of them hang out under the overpasses of Rte. 35, maybe a half mile from our hotel.This is all I can manage for now. Thank you for reading and following along with our adventures at General Convention in Austin, TX. Lastly, Happy Birthday to my son Cole!! I have missed being with him to celebrate every three years of his life for the last 12 years because of when General Convention falls on the calendar. Have a Great Day Y’all 😊We are all getting tired and just a tad punchy, the pigeons roaming the House of Deputies are getting more and more attention in the form of poems, comments and twitter tweets, ensuring we keep our sense of humor while doing this serious work.Amy Swiernik, Lay Deputy to General Convention
Held Together in Prayer
Since my committee (Congregational and Diocesan Vitality) didn’t meet this morning, I admit that I started my day by hitting the snooze button a couple of times! But then it was time to jump in and get to work, and it seems that in all we do, we are held together by prayer.
We began our morning with a joint session (meaning that bishops and deputies meet together) on the Care of Creation. We heard stories from South Africa, Alaska, and the Hudson River Valley about the sacredness of the land and water, of animals and wilderness. And we sang a prayer of praise and alleluia. I was deeply touched by the stories, particularly as they drew our attention to the sacredness of God’s creation.
The Native American woman from Alaska emphasized that “Our children deserve to see the world as it was in the beginning,” and she spoke of “The sacred place where life begins.” As a small group, we discussed ways our diocese can respond to the call to be stewards of God’s holy creation.Lunch was a whiz through the exhibit hall, visiting with the Association for Episcopal Deacons (who are faithfully following and endorsing issues of social justice as well as writing the prayers of the people for the liturgy and organizing the communion stations during the Eucharist) and running into friends for brief chats.
This is my tenth General Convention, my eighth as a deputy, and it’s always amazed me how people from so many pieces of my life, not just now but in years gone by, all cross paths here. I also took a little time to stop by different booths, learning about the ministries that people are doing.Then, before the afternoon legislative session, I gathered for prayer being offered by “Bishops United Against Gun Violence”.
Each day for 15 minutes there is a gathering for prayer for those affected by gun violence, those killed by gun violence. Today the heartbreaking topic was children who have access to guns and accidentally shoot other children. The stories and prayers were powerful and moving.In the afternoon session, we continued legislative work, beginning again with prayer. Our work included adopting the Evangelism Charter which tells us that “Through the spiritual practice of evangelism, we seek, name and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people…”
In this Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, we are called to share the story and proclaim the Good News.Our worship at the end of the day was a Eucharist for the Care of God’s Creation, with music and prayer from Native American and Celtic sources, praying us gently into our love of God’s creation and “this fragile earth, our island home.” The young girl who sang at the beginning was the daughter of Tom Purdy, whom many in Central PA may remember as a youth in our diocese who ultimately followed a call to the priesthood. It was a lovely reminder of the faithful folk whom our diocese has nurtured in both lay and ordained ministry.
I’m struck by how worship at General Convention reminds us that we can transform an empty, often cavernous space into a sacred place with our prayer and song and presence.We ended the day with our diocesan dinner as we gathered for a relaxed evening of food and fellowship! From the hard work of convention through the fellowship of the evening, I pray that we are being faithful to God’s church, particularly our little corner of God’s church in Central Pennsylvania, and I am grateful to be held in prayer.
The Rev. Canon Kate Harrigan, Senior Deputy
We can learn to love each other
Being a first-year deputy at General Convention has its advantages and its disadvantages and the entire process can be pretty overwhelming. So, to get your “sea legs”, first-year deputies are usually not assigned to committees. The advantage is that your schedule is open and you can attend meetings that other delegates do not. At that end of the day at our deputation meetings, we report back to the rest of our diocesan delegation. General Convention is a bicameral body, so the one body (in my case, the House of Deputies) can pass resolutions, but they only go into effect if the other body (the House of Bishops) passes exactly the same resolution.
Today, I sat in on the hearings on the Committee on Ministry which our own Bishop Scanlan is the chair. This committee was working on two resolutions and receiving testimonies both for and against. One resolution was on the topic of amending the Canons concerning the admission of new dioceses into the Episcopal Church and seating of Bishops from those dioceses. The other concerned the issue of non-discrimination in the discernment process. With the Church looking to possibly admit the Diocese of Cuba back into the Episcopal Church, these were very timely issues. The rest of the day was comprised of two legislative sessions in the House of Deputies, where resolutions were presented and were either accepted or rejected, sometimes amended from the floor.
I saw firsthand how the house functioned so well that the final vote on such controversial topics such as “Marriage Rites for the Whole Church” ended up being lopsided votes in favor. All the items from today will get sent to the House of Bishops for further review. So, even though it was passed by the House of Deputies, it is not guaranteed it will pass the other House. The Eucharist service this evening was amazing with music that almost brought one to tears. Having several thousand people sitting with you in church is pretty uplifting.
Later in the day, I attended the reception for the dioceses in Province III. Province III Synod is comprised of all the dioceses in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. So, I met old friends from the surrounding dioceses and made new acquaintances.Being a first-year deputy, I was only permitted to “observe” during the committee meeting, but I am a full deputy in the House of Deputies, I have full voice and vote in that chamber.
I am learning the legislative process and networking and making new friends from around the wider Church.I was excited to see the Church “pull together” to pass resolutions that were controversial when all sides compromised, something lacking in our national dialogue, in my humble opinion.
The worship service in the evening was wonderful with great music, amazing preaching and a moving liturgy. I saw and felt the Holy Spirit move among people. When we work together, and dare I say, even “love” each other, the Holy Spirit moves and the same can happen in our own diocese. Spread out as we are, we can learn to love each other but, that takes time and the desire to develop relationships. So, we have no time to waste as we promote the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.
Br. David Rutledge, St. James Episcopal Church, Lancaster, First-Year Deputy to General Convention
Music, a Suitcase, Bats and General Convention
This being my first General Convention, I was not quite certain what to expect. I arrived late afternoon, Monday, July 2 and from 30,000 feet in the air, I was given tickets for Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real at Austin City Limits. Seeing a live show at Austin City Limits has been on my bucket list for quite some time! I made the Rev. Canon Dan Morrow go with me (he didn’t seem to mind). Standing less than 10 feet from the stage and enjoying live music at Austin City Limits felt surreal. And, THAT is how the 79th General Convention trip began for me.
The following morning, I obtained my media credentials badge, schedule, app info, press info, exhibit hall layout and I was off to cover various events. I was fortunate enough to have a few hours to walk around the exhibit hall and converse with various exhibitors. From the Church Pension Group to The Jesus Movement booth, the display areas were impressive and the people in the booths were kind, talkative and excited to see folks coming in. The daily schedule at General Convention is packed (this is an understatement).
From early morning meetings, Legislative Sessions, House of Deputies/House of Bishops sessions, media briefings to late night diocesan deputation meetings, I am amazed as I watch The Episcopal Church at work. Our diocesan Bishop, Clergy and Lay Delegates and Alternates, P3 Social Justice Committee Member, ECW and Sign Language Interpreter are all incredibly hard at work. Most days I tote three screens, a cell phone, a camera and video equipment in a rolling suitcase to make sure I don’t miss any event.
Each day, we as media receive updates/daily briefings and with the new General Convention Media Hub site https://www.episcopalchurch.org/general-convention-2018-media-hub, ENS website https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/ and other diocesan communicators, we as Episcopal Communicators are all collaborating to provide the latest General Convention news in as close to “real time” as possible. And its teamwork at its best! As Communicators, we were able to gather one evening and see bats, a plethora of bats. Austin is weird…and awesome.In an effort to keep everyone back home informed, we are providing daily blog updates as well as daily videos. To read daily our General Convention news, follow on our website, https://diocesecpa.org/general-convention-news/. To follow us on Facebook, @diocesecpa, Twitter, @diocesecpa and Instagram, @diocpa.
Alexis Guszick, Canon for Diocesan Communications & Events
Today was my first full day in Austin, so I spent some time in the morning exploring before the Exhibit Hall opened at 11 a.m. I am helping host an exhibit table for The Episcopal Network for Economic Justice (ENEJ), which is part of a larger network in The Episcopal Church called “The Consultation”.
As part of my role for ENEJ, I attended and listened to a couple of resolution hearings that addressed socially responsible investing. I am still very much learning my way around how resolutions get presented and dealt with, but the discussion was quite interesting.
I was excited to attend a reception presented by The Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF), an organization I’ve supported for some time. Our Diocesan Social Justice Network has been talking about ways we might encourage more people and parishes in our diocese to get involved in the important work done by EPF.
The Rev. Linda Watkins, Rector, St. Mary’s, Waynesboro, Province III Peace and Justice Ministry Coordinator
Struck by Sincerity
Today, I sat in on the Structure & Governance committee during a discussion of legislation proposed by the task force I participated in for 3 years, about whether to continue the province structure within the Episcopal Church. The discussion echoed many of the issues we struggled with in the task force. This is not an easy issue – some find the province infrastructure critical to their mission while others see no value at all. I was struck once more with the sincerity of all involved and the desire to make the best use of our limited resources.
In addition, I am on the Credentialing Committee, which certifies that each diocese is properly represented. Today we also acquired a new, unexpected responsibility involving ensuring certain votes are accurately recorded. It was exciting to watch the team identify the issues involved, ways to deal with them & then go to work – all within 10 minutes.
This is my 4th General Convention (2 with ECW & 2 as a deputy) and as always, one of the highlights for me has always been the community worship service. All attendees & visitors to convention are welcome and the huge worship area becomes filled with moving music, a variety of languages and an energy that shows the potential within our church. The high point is hearing PB Curry’s sermon, of course!
Later, meeting with our diocesan representation, I can see how much of this energy & excitement can translate into action in our diocese.
A small slice of General Convention
General Convention is giant.
There are about 5,000 Episcopalians gathered in the city of Austin for these next 10 days to study, pray, sing, debate, break bread, and, if one is lucky, to hear some good ‘ole country music.
Each one of us in the deputation from Central Pennsylvania gets to experience a small slice of this giant convention every day. Sometimes our experiences overlap, and sometimes we are on our own, representing our diocese and doing our work with brothers and sisters from one of the other 109 dioceses in The Episcopal Church.
Yesterday, July 4th, I got to experience three wonderful events- a joint session of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies in which we received welcoming messages from President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings and our presiding bishop Michael Curry; the first legislative committee meeting and hearing for Committee #15 (Ministry) of which I serve as Chair of the bishops, and the Listening Liturgy offered by the House of Bishops to hear stories of men and women in our church who have suffered sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation.
All three events were powerful and made me proud to be an Episcopalian. The energy of the Holy Spirit in our joint session was palpable as we came together to launch the work of Convention with uplifting and convicting messages from our leaders. (There was a bird in our cavernous assembly hall that flew in front of ++Michael during his address- it was a sure sign of the Holy Spirit!) The orderliness of our legislative process in the hearings that we held showed the respect that we have for the democratic process and the inclusion of all opinions around the table. And the coming-to-fruition of a process and liturgy that I have worked on for four months lifted up the need for change in our church around issues of sexual abuse in a way that is critical and has opened the path for more, and deeper, work.
I saw some of our ECW women who arrived late this afternoon after a trip that included several travel mishaps – their plane nearly ran out of gas as they circled above Austin and, when they finally arrived, unscathed but tired and late, it took some time to locate their rooms In the hotel reservation system, but in the end, all was well.
My evening ended with warm brisket bathed in blueberry habanero hot sauce, wrapped in a flour tortilla. The saying “Keep Austin Weird” extends even to their menu choices. It was weird, but really good.
I hope that you all had safe and happy 4ths of July.
As I write this, I’m watching fireworks outside my window.
Blessings and peace.
Good and Holy Work of General Convention
Greetings from Austin,
Our first “official” day at General Convention will be July 5th. But for many of us, the good and holy work of General Convention is already underway. Yesterday began by heading to the Convention Center here in Austin to pick up our credential and our iPads. Because there are so many deputies here from around the church, each person who is voting picks up a name tag that designates whether or not you are allowed on to the legislative floor. In addition, you receive an iPad that has a copy of all the resolutions we’ll be considering, a schedule for the week, and our worship bulletins. As we all picked these things up, we were continually running into people we know from around the church. This “small town” feel is one of the highlights of any General Convention.
For lunch, I met with the Missional Church Cohort, a group of people who’ve spent two years studying the Missional Church Movement. Earlier in the year, the Kellogg Foundation gave us a grant to continue to meet together and study the Missional Church Movement, especially how we might continue to support Missional work in our various and sundry dioceses.
In the afternoon, I had my first legislative committee meeting. I am serving this year on the committee for Evangelism and Church Planting. This first meeting consisted of worship, going over our schedule and introductions. Bishop Nicholas Knisely of Rhode Island asked us each to share stories of how we first heard and experienced the love of Jesus. It was a moving experience to hear about God’s work and how seemingly small acts can have eternal consequences. Bishop Knisely challenged us to talk to strangers around town this week and ask them about Christ. In his words, “Let’s not just talk about evangelism, let’s evangelize!” I’m looking forward to this week, all the work, all the long hours, all the meetings, because I know it has eternal significance because it supports telling the story of Jesus and His love for the world.
The Rev. Canon Dan Morrow
Canon for Congregational Life and Mission