Amy Swiernik, Lay Deputy to General Convention
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.