Thursday, July 9, 2009

And so we begin

Day One of business at the 76th General Convention began at 6:30 a.m. for the deputies from the Diocese of Ohio. We were joined by Bishop Hollingsworth, Bishop Willams and the delegates from Ohio to the Triennial Meeting of the Episcopal Church Women (ECW): Mary Stewart, Susan Lau (UTO coordinator), Nancy Sherwin (Province V Representative on the national ECW Executive Board), Mary Prince and Mary Jane White (who heads up our delegation this year in her capacity as vice president of our Diocesan ECW) We met over a continental breakfast arranged for by Deputy Alan James. This early morning meeting gave us an opportunity to check in with each other and also look at the day ahead with regard to business at hand, specifically various committee meetings and committee hearings. The hope of the Ohio deputation is to distribute ourselves throughout the various meetings and hearings with the goal of reporting back to each other. Several deputies from Ohio are serving on legislative committees for this General Convention. Gay Jennings is the chair of the World Mission Committee, Stephen Gracey sits on the Communication Committee, Susan Perkinson sits on Dispatch of Business. Additionally, Conrad Selnick served as a consultant to several special committees and met with our Presiding Bishop!

Our first legislative session began with a wonderful meditation and prayer offered by the Reverend Dr. Frank Wade, Rector of St. Alban’s Parish, Washington D.C. and chaplain to this House of Deputies. What blessing he will be to us. Legislation before us consisted mainly of resolutions to organize ourselves for business including a charming but necessary resolution to inform the House of Bishops that indeed we were organized and ready for business. We dispatched two deputies to convey this message to the House of Bishops and within the hour, two bishops arrived in the House of Deputies to inform us that the House of Bishops was also “organized and ready for business.” It may sound like a song and dance but it is an important part of the ritual by which we guide the work God gives us to do.

As a first time delegate to General Convention I appreciate that the first sessions are somewhat perfunctory which allows us to get our feet wet before taking the plunge into the massive volume of resolutions waiting for our prayerful attention.

From my past visits to General Conventions I know the power of the daily Eucharists and our opening Eucharist did not disappoint. Denise Caywood and I were welcomed to two seats at a table up front occupied mostly by deputies and delegates to the ECW Triennial from the Diocese of North Carolina. The Eucharist began with the steady beat of an African Drummer supported by an all volunteer convention choir! Our Presiding Bishop was the celebrant and the Homilist and she invited us to be open to God’s Holy Spirit to change our hearts so that the work of the convention would not be business as usual. This is a theme that we are hearing over and over in a number of different incarnations. Dr. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies offered the prayers of the people. As we broke bread together I was, as I often am, amazed not only of being in the presence of God’s Spirit but at the movement of God’s spirit through the thousand or so diverse people gathered together.

After the Eucharist Denise Caywood and I visited the Exhibit area where we met up with the Rev. Evelyn Manzella, Kate Gillooly, (staffing the booth for the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors-NAECED), the Rev. Keith Owens (staffing the booth for St.George’s College) and the Archbishop of Canturbury!

In the afternoon, at the urging of and encouragement by fellow deputy Sue Perkinson, I offered a testimony at the hearing held by the Social and Urban Affairs Committee for a possible resolution “Pastoral Generosity in Addressing Civil Marriage.”

Our second legislative session contained more organizational resolutions including a resolution for a meeting of the “Committee of the Whole” which is a meeting of both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies and which will take place either Thursday afternoon to address resolution B033 from the 75th General Convention. President Anderson also shared some statistics with us concerning the House of Deputies: There are 847 certified deputies. 339 or 40% are first time deputies. There are 142 deputies of color. 442 deputies are serving on legislative committees. No first time deputies were assigned to legislative committees this year which give us the opportunity to move about and learn how the convention and the legislative process works. There are 364 female deputies and 483 male deputies. Here are the demographics by age:

25 and under 17
25-35 25
35-45 76
45-55 212
55-65 280
65 and older 161
not classified 76

At 6:15 p.m. the Archbishop of Canturbury made a keynote presentation addressing the world’s economic crisis during a panel discussion. This was the Archbishop’s first visit to a General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The Archbishop is among 70 international visitors and one of 15 Anglican primates attending this important number as we embrace the theme of Ubuntu.

And so we have begun! Keep us in your prayers as we are remembering you in our daily prayers and giving thanks for your support in giving us the honor and privilege to be part of this “family reunion” and extraordinary opportunity.

Brian K. Wilbert
C2 from Ohio

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