And that is certainly what it's felt like over these VERY busy first two days of General Convention 2009.
This is a convention that has committed itself to mission ... and its mission at the moment is to take action on the resolutions it has been presented for consideration by bishops and deputies in attendance here in Anaheim, as well as by dioceses in their conventions during the past triennium.
Unlike 2006 -- when it seemed to many the structure was designed to KEEP legislation from coming forward -- here in Anaheim we've had the legislative process on FAST FORWARD ... with legislative committees quickly calling for open hearings (a necessary step before reporting out any legislation to the floor) on everything from the proposed denominational health plan to removing the defacto moratoria on LGBT bishops to marriage equality.
It's been a full two first days.
Here's what a day at #ecgc (that's the "twitter" moniker for Episcopal Church General Convention ... go figure!) looks like ... or at least what my schedule was yesterday.
6:10am -- Alarm goes off. Jump in shower. Get coffee. Check email. Walk two blocks to Anaheim Hilton for open hearings of the Committee on National & International Concerns.
7:00am -- Sign up to testify in support of C023 ... a resolution urging the overturn of DOMA ("Defense of Marriage Act") in Washington. (Why does the Episcopal Church bother to pass these kinds of "tell our government what we think about things" resolutions? To empower our Episcopal Public Policy Network advocates in Washington to add our voices to those lobbying on issues of peace, justice and compassion that we think Jesus wants us to speak up about.)
While waiting for C023 to be called, listen to compelling testimony from members of TransEpiscopal on the pressing need to add gender identity to nondiscrimination canons in the Episcopal Church and to support the inclusive ENDA (Employment NonDiscrimination Act) wending its way through Congress as we speak.)
Speak my 2 minute piece about why DOMA needs to go -- reminding the committee we spoke at last General Convention on civil marriage equality in 2006-A095 and that now -- with 6 states offering marriage equality -- it is way past time to get rid of the restrictions that keep same sex couples from 1138 federal rights that opposite sex couples receive when they're married.
8:00am -- Get a second cup of coffee and boot up the laptop in the Hilton lobby to post a few pictures from Opening Day and reply to some email. Check in with Randy Kimmler about arrangements for Friday's Integrity Eucharist. (He's off to go pick up the printed liturgies and all the "stuff" that will transform the hotel ballroom into worship space tomorrow night.) Visit with Diane Bruce -- Deputy from Los Angeles. Say g'morning to a bazillion people going one way or the other through the lobby ... including the Bishop of New Hampshire. (Who Diane wants a picture with for her "What I Did At General Convention" scrapbook.)
9:00am -- Head to Convention Center. Enjoy all the folks who point to the colorful t-shirts they're wearing ("Here I Am; Send Me! I am a witness to God's inclusive love!) in preparation for our witness to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the 11:30 Eucharist.
9:30am -- Check out the beginning of the "Mission Conversations" the combined houses are having, utilizing the "Public Narrative Process" -- designed to use story telling as a tool for mission.
9:45am -- Head back to the Hilton to meet staff colleagues from All Saints having breakfast and check in about what's going on in the ASC booth and with pending legislation.
11:00am -- Back to the Convention Center to the Exhibit Hall (which opened at 11) to check in with the Integrity Booth team ... still handing out the last few-of-500 t-shirts (only Smalls & Mediums left). Check in with Louise who is doing a STELLAR job as Communication Director. Talk to reporter from Arkansas in the booth and then a producer from NPR on the phone about what's going to happen next and when. (Who knows??? :)
11:30am -- Daily Eucharist. +Jon Bruno presiding. +Rowan Williams meditationing. Delighted to see "our" t-shirts so widely scattered throughout the huge convention hall.
+Rowan starts out by saying he has both "hopes and anxieties" for our meeting here ... naming that he "hopes that there won't be decisions made that will push us further apart" ... and then launches into his homily ... calling the church to "show the world what an institution looks like when it looks death in the face and declares it overcome" and then quotes William Stringfellow (who he calls "the greatest American theologian") calling us to "give up trying to justify yourself."
12:45pm -- Eucharist over, we head out to the front of the Convention Center, where we've arranged for a "class photo" of members of our "Here I Am" t-shirt club. GREAT turnout. "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know." "We Are Marching in the Light of God." Alleluia. Alleluia.
1:00pm -- Back to the Hilton. Sign up to testify at the Prayer Book, Liturgy & Music open hearing on "the marriage/blessing" resolutions. (There are 8 or 9.) I sign up to speak to C019 ... seeking to "gender neutrify" the marriage canons to include same sex couples.
1:20pm -- Find a sandwich kiosk in the hotel lobby. Spend $12 for an egg salad sandwich and a diet coke. Eat most of it standing up in the Pacific Ballroom Promenade. (It isn't very good.)
2:00pm -- Hearing starts. About 800 people in Pacific Ballroom. Here's what ENS says I said: "It [C019] represents "our best, brightest and most focused effort to achieve clarity on this issue," she said. "The marriage of same-sex couples is no longer theoretical; it is ontological. … It is time for the church to amend the canons to recognize that reality."
4:00pm -- Hearing over, I head back to the hotel, hoping to put my feet up and recharge my cell phone.
4:25pm -- Text message says House of Bishops may be getting B012 on the floor when they reconvene for legislation at 5pm. Unplug cell phone, put shoes back on and head back to Convention Center.
5:00pm -- Find Michael in the visitor's gallery. Bishops are voting on Church Pension Fund and Board of Examining Chaplains. Carol Cole Flanagan stops by to say "False alarm: B012 has been referred to Canons. No action today."
5:20 -- Go to House of Deputies. Hook up with Jan & Jon monitoring the B033 "special order." Listen to Gay Jennings and Randy Dales do an EXCELLENT job of reviewing the history and outlining the options moving forward on Bo33. The House goes into a 30 minutes "one on one" conversation mode on three questions: What is your story about B033? What is the church's story about B033? What do you believe God would have us do next? (or something like that.)
6:00pm -- Go back to Hilton. Convene Integrity's daily legislative briefing session in the LaJolla room for deputies who want to know what's happening in committees they're not in and where legislation is in the pipeline.
6:45pm -- Back to Pacific Promenade to sign up to testify for the Committee on World Mission open hearing on the 13 resolutions relating to B033. Opt to testify to C009 -- the one from Rochester simply stating that we will impose no "extra canonical requirements on consents" to in episcopal elections.
7:30pm -- Michael comes back from food reconnaissance with Pizza Hut. Eat it sitting on the floor talking to +Chilton Knudsen, recently retired Bishop of Maine. (It was better than the egg salad consumed a few feet away a few hours earlier.)
8:00pm -- Open hearing starts. Another (many of the same) 800 or so in attendance. Testimony overwhelming in support of moving "beyond" -- one way or the other. ENS's Pat McCaughan posted a good summary piece last night. I liked my analogy -- drawing on +Katharine's illustration from her opening sermon about the church's "heart for mission" beating the Body of Christ.
I compared B033 to a blockage in the artery that it was time to remove for the health of the mission -- and reminded those who say we need to "be patient and wait" that we've been waiting for 33 years for the full and equal claim the church promised then ... and since 33 years is the number of years our tradition tells us Jesus walked the earth, surely it isn't going to take the Episcopal Church longer to make good its promise than it took Jesus to proclaim the kingdom come among us.
10:00pm -- Hearing ends. We huddle with legislative folks to get ducks in a row for tomorrow's special order in the House of Deputies and to find out if anyone knows how B012 is doing in terms of getting out to the bishops.
10:15pm -- Decline invitation for a nightcap and head back to the hotel -- ready to crash and hoping to sleep in a little in the morning.
10:30pm -- Get folder with interview appointments for NPR and WOR radio for tomorrow ... 5:45am and 6:30am respectively. (So much for sleeping in.)
11:15pm -- Brush my teeth. Say my prayers. Put in a wake up call request for 5:15am.
Go to bed and get ready to get up and do it all again the next day.
And since today is our Integrity Eucharist Day so it is going to be REALLY busy! :)
Here endeth the "day-in-the-life-of" look at General Convention 2009 ... more as time and stamina allows!
I really want one of those t-shirts. Hope we can meet today sometime Susan!
I will include in my prayers for the convention that you get to eat much better :-)
you and Our Miss Brooks are amazing
gifts to the Church
on-going prayers for y'all here
Wow. That's a full day. Thank you for being there, and for being here on the blog too.
Good luck with the food.
Thanks for all of your continuing hard work on our behalf Susan. My prayers and the prayers of Albany Integrity are with you!!
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