Monday, July 9, 2012

Dip or Plunge? The General Convention Waters for the First Time Swimmer

By Susan B. Taylor      

Some people like to slowly acclimate to water. They first dip in their toes, then gathering courage they slowly inch in deeper while quickly calculating if retreat is possible before the next wave breaks. Others, such as myself, prefer to plunge-in. That’s how I approached the water off Cape Cod a few days before I arrived in Indianapolis under a blazing hot sun. And it’s how I decided to approach my first General Convention.

I wasn’t really nervous. After all, there are plenty of lifeguards on duty! And I had done my homework. Episcopal Divinity School had prepared me with a week-long intensive course taught by the Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman with daily guest speakers included the Right Reverend Barbara C. Harris, Dio. MA; Dr. Bonnie Anderson, President, House of Deputies; The Honorable Byron Rushing, Senior Deputy, Dio. MA; Mrs. Susan Pettingill Wood, House of Bishops' Secretariat; Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett; The Rev. Canon Mally Lloyd and members of the Massachusetts Deputation.

And EDS hasn’t been the only shelter at General Convention. (Remember that blazing hot sun?) My own Diocese of Vermont has been an oasis here too.

Truly, the effort of scrutinizing resolutions and other resources prior to plunging into the turbulent waters was handsomely rewarded. Buoyed along with my color-coded, schedule-containing, bright orange journal I haven’t drifted out too far.

I’m navigating the channels between throngs of people to find my way into committee hearings.

I even surprised myself by speaking on A010 which calls for identifying “information to be included in the changes to the Parochial Report form based upon current changes and new realities in TEC” and to authorize and implement such changes. Resolutions can be tracked at which is a lot easier than paddling to the display board at the far end of the corridor.

I’m swimming laps between the House of Bishops and House of Deputies; between hearings, committees, sessions, and gatherings. I’m learning the language of parliamentary procedure. I’m decoding report numbers, committee numbers, resolution numbers, message numbers, consent calendars, daily calendars, and supplemental calendars. I’m surfing the resolution ride: discharge, refer back, adopt, amend, reconsider, call the question, divide the question, divide the resolution, etc.

I’m gaining appreciation for the deep engagement of all who are working so diligently to find creative ways to look critically and pastorally at how we as Episcopalians do church. And I’m filling with hope and love as I participate in this drama unfolding as we struggle to renew and rebuild our faith community.

There’s little time for food, especially when I heed my mother’s warning “not to swim for at least a half-hour after eating.” My main meal is the spiritual nourishment I receive at the daily Holy Eucharist. The water here is deeper than I’ve ever swam in before. We must be feeding more than 1000. And the temperature here is hotter than I’ve ever been in, reaching 115º the other day.

The temperature in debate on the other hand moves up and down between fiercely passionate on hot-button issues like Open-Table, Confirmation, and Same-Gender Blessings to tepid when the amendments to the amendments begin. But I’ve not touched icy waters, yet. Sometimes, unpredictable weather conditions turn calm seas into turbulent waters over a topic such as—the Bible!

When there is a brief free moment, I don’t go sun-bathing! I swim laps around the exhibit hall, float in the Ecclesiastical Art Exhibition, or tread water in the passage-way hawking postcards, crying out “Fredrica for Executive Council!”

Drying off a bit to share a meal with friends and colleagues ensures the energy boost to dive back in! Beribboned name tags adorning the necks of all GC swimmers serve as navigational aids.

The General Convention waters are deep and brimming with life but beware of submerged obstacles, unknown hazards, and a bit of flotsam - jetsam. My lifeline is prayer and worship, helpful people, the droid phone, lots of planning and my orange journal. Do the Episcopal Church’s General Convention waters look inviting to you? Come on in. The water is fine!

Susan Taylor is a postulant in the diocese of Vermont in her third year of her MDiv program at Episcopal Divinity School. An artist and hiker, Taylor is married with two children and lives in Western Massachusetts when not on campus. You can find her blog at

1 comment:

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