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General Convention Reflection from Friday, July 6, 2018

General Convention Reflection from Friday, July 6, 2018

By Nanci Gordon

A lot of life gets packed into each day of General Convention. It’s hard to believe how much has happened in the four days since I arrived in Austin for my fourth time as a member of Vermont’s deputation. Thank you for the privilege of being here on your behalf.

My day began with a meeting of Committee 24–Privilege and Courtesy–on which I now have the pleasure to serve. With all my years as part of our Diocesan resolutions committee, this was an appointment that I sought  and accepted with enthusiasm.

It is a joy to be in a room full of wordsmiths and punctuation police. My tribe!

In the midst of tackling serious and sometimes controversial topics, it is critical that we pause to appreciate and celebrate, too.

At the request of Bishop Ely, I asked the group about crafting a resolution to honor the 25th anniversary of the election and consecration of the Ninth Bishop of Vermont, Mary Adelia McLeod, since it made history not only in the Episcopal Church, but in the worldwide Anglican Communion. I am delighted to be taking on that assignment, among others. Each resolution is perfected with help from other committee members. That’s a very enjoyable process.

In the midst of tackling serious and sometimes controversial topics, it is critical that we pause to appreciate and celebrate, too.

Today, the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies held the first of what are being called TEConversations (clever, right?), in which we meet as a whole body to discuss critical issues. Today’s focus was on racial reconciliation.

We heard from a former Neo-Nazi about how his life changed radically when he embraced what he called “the double-edged sword of forgiveness and compassion,” and we heard a joy-filled poem about the black experience from a Austin-area poet. We heard from Dr. Catherine Meeks at the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta, who told us, “We have to decide that being well is more important than being black or white or brown or red or any other color.” Finally, we heard a rousing address from a woman known as the dreamer priest, Nancy Frausto, who serves at St Luke’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach, California. Now 35, she and her parents came to the US illegally from Mexico when she was seven to escape poverty and violence.

Since my committee had the afternoon off, I took advantage of the opportunity to explore a bit more of downtown Austin. That’s one thing that deputies rarely get to do–thoroughly enjoy the communities in which our conventions are held–because there is so much to be accomplished.

I had lunch and then explored some of the shops along Willie Nelson Boulevard, which is 2nd Street in downtown Austin. I made it back to the convention center in time for our second legislative session of the afternoon, during which we started to debate one of the more controversial issues we currently face: whether or not to authorize a comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer. Such a revision would not be something that would be decided upon during one convention. The resolution under consideration would authorize the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to undertake such a revision. To develop, present and “test run” a proposed BCP and get the approval of successive General Conventions is roughly a twelve-year process.

Many deputies spoke to the resolution, but many more people wanted to weigh in, pro and con, on this topic. We will be continuing the conversation first thing Saturday morning.

After today’s legislative session, we went to worship. The worship space in the convention center creates the impression of stained glass windows, thanks to clever lighting. President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings gave a sermon that was marked by her characteristic insight and humor–the take-home of which was to take heart because Jesus is praying for us! The music was amazing, reflecting the cultures of the region–including soft but very Texas-sounding fiddle music during Communion.

After the service, I dined with my fellow Vermont Deputy, the Rev. Titus Pressler, and toward the end of the meal, we were joined by Vermont’s representative to the Episcopal Church Women’s triennial, Wendy Grace.

And so, I have returned to my room, tuckered out, but determined to complete my writing assignments before bed.

Tomorrow brings the continued discussion of the Book of Common Prayer, as well as one of our Vermont deputation meetings, a joint session on evangelism in the afternoon, worship at the nearby Palmer Events Center (including the Presiding Bishop preaching), followed by a big barbecue hosted by our hosts, the Diocese of Texas. I look forward to all of it. #GC79

 

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