The best thing about a gathering of this number of souls here at 72nd General Convention is the miraculous inevitability of renewing friendships made years ago, and forming new ones.
The halls do not reverberate with controversy and disagreement nearly as much as they do with delighted calls of "hello!... do you remember me?... years ago, at St. Swithin's!" Giant clumps of hugging Episcopalians clog the passageways. (so much for "God's frozen people." Nobody is acting frozen at all.) Many people sail up or down the escalators facing backwards, trying desperately to prolong accidental conversations begun in opposite directions. And alas, the opposite is also much in evidence --it is almost impossible to find people one can always find at home. For example, I have only seen my musical partner Ana Hernandez once, but she may be hiding from me.
One of the best decisions here has been to provide Bibles all over the place, and not just the usual ones hiding in the rooms, in their Gideoned drawers of repose. The centrality of the Holy Scriptures to our tradition is evident in our daily worship, meetings, and deliberations. Attendance is high at the announced working groups, seminars, and forae (forums, ok?).
Since the members of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops must follow grueling mandated schedules it would be understandable if many Deputies, Alternates and Bishops did not attend the many opportunities for further discussion or enlightenment. But, they do. I attribute this to the presence of the Holy Spirit, so often invoked among us. These ones who meet in the huge barn-like spaces for 4 and 5 hour stretches of detailed deliberation emerge yawning and stretching, but ready for more. The Spirit invigorates, clearly. Good thing.
I do not know what I expected to see and feel here before coming here--for Philadelphia is this reporter's first General Convention. Knowing how much controversy faces us, this Church Episcopal (wounded but fixable), and the many deep currents of disagreement and passionate advocacies that mark us as a diverse communion of the Holy Church, perhaps I expected to see some snarling, or snubbing going on. Deo Gratias--not much yet!
The divisions are real, and are not hushed up. I rejoice in witnessing scenes of deep respect and real love everywhere I traipse in this vast place. Elevators rapidly fill up: members of Integrity (the lesbigay organization), members of the Episcopal Synod of America, members of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and of Episcopal Church Women, Prayer Book Society, and "Beyond Inclusion" folks, all cramming together, smiling sincerely in welcome to each other as the doors close and all inside whizz up and/or down to meetings. Our affiliations speak through our buttons and badges, but so far, most people seem to read the badges to ascertain Christian names, and not merely to identify causes. This amity does not feel forced or insincere All here seem to pray for agreement or compromise with honor. But, by definition, not all can win, and it is still early in this Convention's appointed time.
No matter how we feel or how we believe, I pray that we ALL remember everywhere that discussions concerning women's ordinations, same-sex unions and the blessings thereof, etc.--that we are talking about, to, and/or as Episcopal Christians. We share so much, and we keep this in mind and heart.
The phone just rang. Lane Denson+ of "Gnash-ville, Tenneshhee". Has anyone else who has heard Lane's voice noted that he sounds a heckuvva lot like Shelby Foote, the elegant and spiffy historian? Well, I think so. Lane+ and Deb ate dinner together, setting eyes upon each other for the very first time. He is to play trumpet with the Miserable Offenders, my musical duo. He assured me that he indeed can play trumpet. Pray, if you can and will, folks.