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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Annoying the pig

I believe it was Mark Twain who once said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. You'll only get frustrated and it will annoy the pig."

I'm not saying that our Diocesan Convention yesterday was annoying or frustrating - wait a minute - yes I am.

Because of the soaring costs of hotels and, well, everything else, our diocese decided to move from a convention format that began on Friday at noon and ended on Saturday at 5 PM to a one-day event, which stared at 8 and ended at 4:30.

Well, theoretically, anyway.

God knows, I'm wild about our Bishop and he tried his absolute best to keep us on track. But, you know, that was a big part of the problem. Most of his energy was consumed with keeping us on track. Indeed, all of everyone else's energy was focused there.

Our conventions, like General Convention is like one "Big Fat Episcopal Wedding". It's one part business, one part family reunion.

We "got through it" - but at the expense of some of the things that are, for me anyway, precious commodities in this diocese: Relationships. Community. Joy.

The legislative process as adapted by The Episcopal Church owes its greatest strength to the process of formulating a resolution for convention. Because resolutions have no real 'teeth' (except for those which change canon law), they are primarily an exercise in education and community building. Well, that's how I've always seen it.

When we lost the time to do that, the process fell apart. So, for example, the resolution on "Celebrating the Season of Creation" failed because we didn't have the opportunity to talk with those folks who saw the season as 'worshiping creation through God' v. 'worshiping God through creation.'

We also tabled a resolution on Human Trafficking. It sure sounded like a 'no brainer' to me, but it was tabled because some folks really weren't clear about what we were really asking and, there being no time to do that . . . .

And then, of course, there were the folks I warned you about yesterday. You know. The blessed among us who are known as The Tedious Ones. Well, in this diocese where we are enthusiastic about lots of stuff, some of us are actually enthusiastic about separating fly shit from pepper.

So, lots of the things that were on the Consent Calendar were taken off and put back on the floor for discussion and debate because well, some of us wondered if the resolution was in the proper form for General Convention. And, do you need that "that" before the third indented "be it therefore resolved that"?

I am not making this up.

But, because these tedious folks, bless their hearts, do this every year and see it as part of their diocesan ministry, well, we all try to grin and bear it. This year, that was a little harder to do.

Don't get me wrong - there were some real bright and shining moments. The creation of the "Marge Christie Fund for Congregational Growth and Development" was one of them. She deserves the honor and we need grant money for programs to help us grow and develop our congregations.

Seeing the kids work as pages and runners and watching them watch us do the 'business' of the church is always a delight. We have one of the best diocesan youth ministries in The Episcopal Church, and we get a chance to see some of that at convention.

Then, there was the moment in one of the "Mission Minutes" - a series four slide shows which addresses how some of the congregations in our diocese are part of the Four Gates of Hope - the vision articulated by our bishop.

One of the "Mission Minutes" addressed Social Justice. At one point, an image of President Barack Obama flashed before us on the screen. The whole convention floor burst into spontaneous applause.

The very next image on the screen was an icon of Jesus. There was some nervous laughter and then the whole convention floor bust into even louder spontaneous applause. You know. Just in case Jesus was around and listening in.

It was a great effort and those who worked to arrange and coordinate this year's convention ought to be loudly applauded as well. They did the very best job they could, given the awful circumstances handed to them by the realities of our economy. They had to be efficient and effective and they were. And, I am thankful.

But, much of the time, they were bumping up against old pigs like me who don't know how to sing faster and so just got annoyed.

And, actually, inspired. On the way home from convention in Whippany, I completely re-wrote my Rector's message for our Annual Meeting today. I now have seven beach balls which I'm going to toss into the congregation as I and the staff do our thang. The job of the congregation is to keep the balls bouncing and not let them drop.

I'm hoping to give them an image our a 'normal' day in the life of St. Paul's that they don't see on Sunday and that doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with the words, "technology" or "PowerPoint."

I'm about to sing a new song of Imagination and Creativity.

Slowly. The way I know how to sing it.

Pray for me and I'll pray for you.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Well, I've never done a church convention, but it can't be a whole lot different than dealing with the tedious people at other conventions.

My personal irritant are the "Robert's Rules Nazis." People start making amendments and word changes and getting in arguments if changing four words can be a "friendly amendment" or whether it has to be voted upon.....


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this marvelous and creative description of a diocesan convention. The part about the "tedious ones" will carry me through for my own diocesan event in a few weeks.

DaYouthGuy said...

kirk beat me to it about the Roberts Rules folk. We have about 4-5 of them who will go on in minute detail about the exact procedure for whatever. A shudder goes through the room when you see all of them at various mics simultaneously.

Good words about your diocesan youth ministry. You have a wonderful lady leading the way. I enjoy the time I get to spend with her. Yay, Kai!

Jeffri Harre said...

I loved the bit about throwing the beach balls into the congregation!

Ah, Robert's Rules. Once during my college days we ran our dinner conversation according to Robert's Rules. I don't think any of the school organizations those of us at that table belonged to used them ever again while any of us were still students!

Lindy said...

Texas runs a very tight ship at diocesan convention. I think the overall effect is to tighten the bishop's iron fist of control. But, what they do really well is pre-convention communication. I could know how I was going to vote weeks before the actual thing. It makes talking to tedious people totally unnecessary. Talking, at all, in fact... totally optional.