So all the bags are packed, waiting by the door. We’re leaving this morning for the drive to Anaheim and the start of General Convention.
Jamie McMahon, a friend of mine for years now, is one of the volunteer coordinators on the floor of the House of Deputies. He’s created a Facebook group for folks who are interested in watching the proceedings from that level. There are already three pictures posted of the main convention areas over on that group’s page.
It’s the pictures that give me pause. This is my fourth General Convention (my third as a deputy.) The overwhelming sense that I have each time I walk into the House of Deputies and/or the Exhibit Hall each Convention is that I’m in the same place I was three years ago. It’s really quite striking. The curtains in the House that surround the floor, the basic layout, the dais arrangement, the speaker’s platforms are all the same. (I’m thinking the Episcopal Church must actually own them all and just has them shipped from one Convention center to the next.) It’s the same with the Exhibit Hall. The same yellow and white curtains, the same basic layout, even the same table arrangement in the standard food court area in the back of the hall.
George Werner, former Dean of the Cathedral in Pittsburgh and for six years President of the House of Deputies, once described General Convention as a sort of Brigadoon that rises once every three years from the mist and exists for two weeks and then disappears again.
I thought he was just being clever the first time I heard him say that. Now I realize that intentional or not, there’s a profound truth behind what he said.
As I’m getting ready to throw myself back into the work of Convention, I finding myself back in the same emotional space I was in the final couple of days of Convention in Columbus. We’re finally going to give people a chance to react with anger to events of that final day in Columbus when we passed B033 unexpectedly as a last ditch effort. Because that event was so stunning to so many who thought that the defeat of A161 the day before was going to be definitive, there really wasn’t a chance for those who felt the pain the most strongly to react and speak their pain to the majority of Convention who voted for B033 (as I did).
I think the toxicity of the blog sphere this past three years is in part a result of that lack. People were speaking their pain and their anger to anyone who would listen, but the real audience needed to be Convention again.
And this Brigadoon quality that Convention posses might just give folks that opportunity. As it rises again from the mist, and the deputies gather, it appears the first order of business is going to be a special listening session. Which I expect is going to be dominated by those who never got to tell Convention about how hurt they were by its actions.
Which I’m not particularly looking forward to doing. But it has to happen. Because if it doesn’t, we have no hope of the sort of healing and reconciliation that the Episcopal Church so desperately needs right now.