One of the questions I have received about General Convention is what it is like. What you notice right away is General Convention’s impressive scale. Every one of the 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church is able to bring four clergy and four lay deputies. They may also bring four alternate clergy and four alternate lay deputies. In total, that’s over 800 people on the floor of the House of Deputies. All bishops are also present, meeting in the House of Bishops. Each diocese can have 1 – 3 bishops in place (Diocesan, Suffragan, and Assisting/Assistant). Visitors from near and far can also attend, as well as media from dioceses, youth observers, and distinguished guests. The Exhibit Hall also has an extraordinary number of staff and volunteers, and in addition to booths, the seminaries regularly bring in staff or faculty for seminary reunions. Meanwhile, the entire Convention Center is run by massive amounts of volunteers – covering everything from check-in, monitoring the floor, helping with worship, to the exhibits. Meanwhile, the ECW holds its annual triennium at the same time, which involves representatives, organizers, and volunteers. Needless to say, Episcopalians take over the host city (this year coined as the Episcapocalypse). Even Austin, Texas, which prides itself in being “weird,” I think was a little overwhelmed by our numbers.
What I particularly enjoyed was getting a taste of what it might be like to enter God’s heavenly kingdom. People from all walks of my life were present at Convention. There were people from my time in undergraduate campus ministry, my time working as a lay person, my time in seminary, my time as a curate, my first time as a rector, and my current position. The joy of greeting one longtime friend or colleague after another was heartwarming. It also reminded me of how incredibly blessed my life has been to be full of incredible people who have shaped, influenced, and sometimes directed my faith life. God’s abundance was all around me in the faces of God’s children.
But you could not be at General Convention without meeting other people. A conversation about something mundane would lead to the realization that we had friends in common. Waiting in line for something would lead to a conversation about a shared passion. People you have “met” online through vocational networking you could finally meet in person. Suddenly, you realized you were making connections from all over the world. The family of the Episcopal Church is deep and wide. I leave General Convention feeling hopeful for the future of the Episcopal Church, knowing that it is full of passionate people, doing their part to create a loving, liberating, life-giving world through Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God!