Friday, July 13, 2018

The view from the farthest balcony

From The Rev. Kelly Sundberg Seaman

I’m fairly sure that this is the third General Convention I’ve followed closely via Twitter, which is just about as long as it's been possible to do so. True, that's only a sample of what’s going on: “social media General Convention” isn’t any more the full picture of GC than a parking lot conversation is the full picture of the meeting that preceded it.

That’s not quite a fair analogy, though, since much of what comes across social media with the hashtag #GC79 isn’t after-the-fact chatter. Yes, there’s a lot of passionate advocacy on line, and the occasional wave of snark. But folks posting on Twitter also provide on-the-spot reporting from committee hearings and legislative sessions, like meeting minutes in real time. The team from Austin’s own Seminary of the Southwest have done a particularly fine job this year with that kind of reporting. 

And the House of Deputies uses Twitter as a transparent communications tool: addressing @HODPlatform is one of the ways deputies can ask for clarification on policies and procedures as the House does its work.

General Convention deploys a lot of technology to enable folks at a distance to engage with the church at work: open sessions of both the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops are live streamed (i.e., broadcast) and archived on the convention’s Media Hub, as are the convention’s worship services. Videos of press briefings are posted on that site, as well as recordings of special topical conversations on Creation Care, Racial Reconciliation, and Evangelism.  Anyone with an internet connection has access to the “Virtual Binder” that publishes and tracks changes in the resolutions being considered at Convention. Between the official news feeds and the unofficial ones, there’s an abundance of ways to “be there” in Austin without actually being there. And with enough browser tabs open, you can be (well, almost, virtually) more than one place at a time. (You can certainly get from House to House more quickly than you could on the ground.)

Following General Convention this year as a deputy from a distance  has reminded me of something taught in practical theology: Sometimes you need to be on the dance floor, in the thick of things as they happen. And sometimes you need to take a balcony view: a little distant, a little abstracted, looking for patterns only visible from above.

So—as I wrote in Holy Spirit & St. Mark’s weekly e-news on Thursday—here’s what General Convention has looked like to your second alternate clergy deputy, from her virtual balcony:

For the past two weeks, the Episcopal Church has been gathered in General Convention. A great part of the work done in Austin has been about our church’s willingness to confess that we have fallen short, sinning “against God and our neighbor,” and then deciding how, over the next 3 years, the Episcopal Church will commit our energy, time, and funds to amend our common life.  (As we pray at Compline: “Grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other's toil.”(BCP 134)

General Convention does its work through legislating resolutions. But what those resolutions are, at heart, are prayers and promises. Prayers and promises that we will work to do better at how we treat all God’s children. Better at caring for God’s creation. Better at telling the truth about ways that we have fallen short and hurt each other. And above all, better at trying to love each other as God loves us.

Report from Cathie Lewis of Tamworth

Cathie Lewis, of St Andrews-in-the-Valley, Tamworth, writes from General Convention in Austin. Cathie is in Austin out of sheer love for Convention: “I admit it wholeheartedly and unabashedly. There is a physical and spiritual energy that captivates me. Then, too, the politics fascinate me!” After worshipping and serving in dioceses including West Virginia, Southern Ohio, Ohio, Springfield, Eastern Florida, and Connecticut, she’s been in New Hampshire (“blissfully and sincerely hopeful that it’s my final move”) for about nine years. She’s a delegate to NH’s convention from the Lakes Region, and recently finished a term as the Lakes Convocation's lay co-convener.

July 3: Arrived late afternoon and took the “Super Shuttle” into town. It’s supposed to be a 25 minute ride, but the driver knows some short cuts… 12 minutes later, we were at the Hilton, complete with a knowledge of Austin history and the driver’s shared story of his London birth of Nigerian parents and his immigration to the USA and his naturalization 17 years ago to "the greatest country in the world".  What a beautiful and dramatic introduction to General Convention!

July 4: Today was to have been a day of personal organization and acclimation, but what a wonderful surprise.  A small group (only a few hundred or so) of early arrivers met in the House of Delegates for “introductions.” First up to bat (can't get away from baseball analogies, as the Sox are going so well) was Michael Curry, hereinafter called the PB. Some of us may be familiar with the historic 14 minutes several weeks ago in London???  That was then, that was nothing, compared to this is now!  He was rousing, he was compassionate, he was outraged, and he was determined. We will respond, and we will make a difference -- with the immigration situation and with the #metoo movement.

July 10: How?  How to describe what goes on here.  That is rhetorical, because there really is no answer.  The Episcopal News Service (ENS) and the NH Diocesan Newsletter can give a day-to-day report, so I'd like to share impressions and my own thoughts.
The Presiding Bishop is still being the Presiding Bishop, of course!   Here are some of his thoughts, offered randomly by me:
     Jesus is the Vine; we are the Branches. Do you hear Jesus whispering, "You are the Episcopal Branch of my movement!"  
     Only LOVE can change the world. How? In a world that is profoundly un-loving, we must keep our hand on the Gospel and our eyes on the prize.  In the Sea of Galilee, Peter could walk on the water in the storm until he lost focus on Jesus—he lost sight of the Prize.  We, every Episcopalian, need to throw ourselves into the hands of Jesus, turning to the direction of the Son, until our spiritual practices become instinctive.
     Seek JUSTICE and RECONCILIATION, not just victory.  This way we can help Christianity reclaim its soul.  (Wow, says I. How profound is that!)
     I do wish there could be some way to convey the passion, the love, the drama, that is shared all around here.  
  Blessings to all, Cathie

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Update on Legislative Day Four

It's the 4th Legislative Day here at General Convention, but most of us have been in Austin for almost a full week. In the House of Deputies, most resolutions we've passed have been on our Consent Calendar. We have debated and approved the prayer book revision resolution, which now goes to the House of Bishops. We've begun debate on marriage liturgy but didn't get very far.

Here are some photos to illustrate what the NH Deputation has been doing in recent days:

Gathering the Vine

Each deputation has a sign at its table to identify the diocese--and they get decorated. Ours has a moose and a New Hampshire plaque and a cap with our Tending the Vine logo. But we decided we also needed a real vine. The early birds among us--Bishop, Benge, Sarah, and Gail--pay a visit to Austin's Barton Springs Pool early in the morning (walking, jogging, or biking). On one of their excursions, they gathered a vine and brought it back and installed it.

Bishop Rob and the Vine

Gail takes the Vine to breakfast

The Vine is installed

Tending the Vine--we keep it watered


We attend worship daily. The Convention Eucharist is multilingual with a wide variety of musical styles and hymns.. The Presiding Bishop preached at the Opening Eucharist. The Episcopal Church Women presented UTO contributions at an Ingathering, with Gloria Gallant representing New Hampshire.

Bishops on their way to Eucharist. Ours is window-gazing
Dancing in the aisles

Electronic service bulletin in iPads issued to the Deputies

The Revival & Texas Night

The Diocese of Texas, our host diocese, sponsored Texas Night on Saturday. The first portion consisted of an exuberant Revival style worship, with multicultural music, praise singing, prayer stations, and a rip-roaring sermon by Presiding Bishop Curry. Dinorah Padro, his Spanish-language real-time interpreter, was just as vibrant and eloquent a presence as he was. After the Revival, we went outside to eat an array of items from Food Trucks and listen to music, and were bused back to the Convention Center.

Group selfie while waiting for bus to the Revival

At the Revival: PB & interpreter Dinorah & TX Suffragan Bp. Jeff Fisher

 Bishops United Against Gun Violence

Most of us attended the Sunday morning witness in a park beside the Convention Center sponsored by Bishops United Against Gun Violence. The crowd was large, and local police were present. The main speakers were the parents of Parkland High School shooting victim Carmen Schentrup, and Abigail Zimmerman, who organized a  walk-out at her Waco high school after the tragedy in Florida. Afterwards, there was a Eucharist in the Convention Center. Some Convention attendees worshiped in local parishes. Others boarded buses for the journey to Taylor, Texas and Hutto Detention Center.

Our guardians

The crowd

Carmen Schentrup's family
Bishop Curry giving closing benediction

Hutto Detention Center

Not very long before  Convention began, awareness of our proximity to the US Border and to migrant detention facilities, sparked a plan to be present at one of them. Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas, outside Austin, was the chosen location. Buses transported Convention attendees to the site. Initially the group was stationed far from the building, then moved closer, then was moved back. Our bishop described seeing hands lifted behind the long, narrow windows, proof that those inside were aware of the Episcopalians and others praying for them far beyond the walls. Many of our NH deputies and Bishop Rob were present.

Episcopalians in Taylor, Texas

The Hutto Detention Center
Presiding Bishop Curry
Gail (credit: EPPN via Twitter) 

Legislative Day Four

After everyone returned to the Convention Center, it was back to business. The Legislative Session was delayed by an hour to allow return travel for the Hutto visitors. Some of us visited favorite booths in the Exhibit Hall.

Kate coloring the mural at the  ERD booth
In the House of Deputies, it was Voting Day. We do it electronically. It took a lot of time--we had many board positions and officers to vote for.

Electronic voting device

So many resolutions we have yet to debate and to pass....

Friday, July 6, 2018

Reflections on the UBE Gala from Marti Hunt

I feel a great deal of energy, and I will say spirit at General Convention. This was powerfully felt at the Union of Black Episcopalians Gala the Evening of July 4th. It was the 50th anniversary!

It was an incredible gathering of 400 people when 300 had been expected. I don’t know how the loaves and fishes or in our case chicken and shrimp expanded, but it happened and it was a beautiful thing.

Presiding Bishop Curry in his opening remarks to Convention placed much emphasis on the idea that we are all strangers seeking a homeland, which may not be reached in our lifetimes. Many of us at the Gala may not see the end of systemic racism and true reconciliation in our lifetimes. Yet, the Gala was full of friends, which was Incredibly demonstrated when PB Curry arrived to thunderous applause. Maybe a taste of homeland.

There were also strangers who were welcomed in. I sat down at an empty table for individual attendees and was quickly joined by a woman who grew up in Bethlehem, NH and her husband who grew up across the river in Vermont. They now live in San Francisco. We were then joined by two bishops and two members of the Racism and Reconciliation committee, whose hearing I had attended that day among others.

We ate and chatted as music was sung, awards were given, and elders of the group were remembered. Through all this people kept jumping up to greet friends. As the evening closed, I felt a bit as if a veil had lifted and I also got a little taste of homeland, of Beloved Community. It was terrific.

--Marti Hunt, NH Lay Alternate I

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

We're here! And already very busy!

Most members of the NH Deputation arrived in Austin on Monday. Or in a few cases, Tuesday.

The group gathered at midday to discuss pending legislative matters. Settling in and supermarket runs took up much of the day. Those serving on legislative committees had their initial organizing meetings in the evening.

Tuesday, the 4th of July, was no holiday at General Convention. Legislative Committees convened again in the morning for hearings and to begin the work of reviewing and creating resolutions and hearing testimony. The NH Deputation gathered again at midday to check in and find out from each other what was happening in various committees on which we serve or are tracking.

There was a joint session in the early afternoon, with Bishops and Deputies seated together to hear opening addresses by the officers of General Convention. Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Michael Curry, gave a rousing invitation to enter into our responsibilities, followed by President of the House of Deputies (who quoted from texts that passed between her and the PB when he informed her that he would be preaching at the royal wedding) and also referenced the daily lectionary.

These opening addresses were followed by representatives of other bodies present--Bishop Andy Doyle of Texas, the host diocese, the President of Episcopal Church Women, beginning their 49th Triennial gathering, and others.

There had been a friendly wager between the Presiding Bishop (PB) and the President of the House of Deputies (PHOD) when their respective  favourite teams and/or alma maters faced off in the collegiate basketball championship. Syracuse beat North Carolina. The PB's loss meant that the House of  Bishops had to serenade the PHOD with the Syracuse song--which they did, and promptly departed to their own House on an upper floor of the Convention Center.

The Bishops departed to their House, the Deputies remained for training on the technology--our Virtual Binder software on the iPads we receive at registration. The Voting Secretary led us through the complexities of voting with our handheld voting devices. Always a challenge.

Voting device
As usual, there will be at least one blog post and possibly more featuring the Exhibit Hall. During a very brief scouting trip, it was a thrill to find  a large stack of Bishop Rob's book in the Church Publishing Booth. He will have a signing on Monday at noontime.

This evening the Bishops hosted a listening session liturgy that was very well attended and very moving. Music, prayer, confession, lamentation, and stories shared.

Trivia: The Convention Center has no 2nd floor. Yet the House of Bishops is on the 4th floor. Which technically must be the 3rd Floor. That might be part of the Keep Austin Weird mandate.  We have been advised that if someone tells you some official or office  or resource is on the "2nd Floor," they are messing with  you.

Fun at Convention: The Episcopal Church has a crazy sense of humor. Austin will be the weirder for it. At one information booth, this sign...from someone who is clearly a fan of the Peanuts comic strip and Lucy's psychiatric help desk.

Weird Thing of the Day: The pigeon. He has a Twitter account already. You can follow it at General Convention Pigeon. It was also spotted in the Exhibit Hall. Not sure whether our GC Pigeon will be granted voice and vote. It certainly got very excited during the PB's address!

Tomorrow is the First Legislative Day, with opening Eucharist, more committee meetings/hearings, and possibly more pigeon sightings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Getting Ready for Austin!

Atrium, Austin Convention Center
To prepare for General Convention 2019, the triennial gathering of The Episcopal Church, the New Hampshire Deputation has held several meetings.

We gathered in November to receive very preliminary information, as we awaited information about our housing choice and any committee assignments.

In March, we came together again. Deputies took on the task of reviewing Blue Book resolutions in order to update the group on matters of interest at the next meeting.

The Province 1 Pre-Convention Synod was held in Worcester, MA in April, and most of the deputation attended. General Convention Secretary Michael Barlowe, President of the House of Deputies Gay Jennings, and the Presiding Bishop's Canon Michael Hunn led discussions about convention. Proposed resolutions by our province related to the opiod crisis and the parochial report were also presented.

By that time we had learned that these Deputies were assigned to committees:

Benge Ambrigi will serve on Congregational Development (Committee #10)

Kate Atkinson will serve on Safeguarding and Title IV (Committee #3)

Sarah Ambrogi will serve on Church Pension Fund (Committee #17)

Margaret Porter is the chair of Privilege and Courtesy (Committee #24)

The Bishop serves on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Music (Committee #12)

Deputies took on the task of reviewing Blue Book resolutions in order to update the group on matters of interest at the next meeting.

At the end of May, we re-convened to share findings about resolutions, discuss logistics, and answer questions. Margaret had attended the Committee Chairs' orientation meeting in Austin earlier in the month, and was able to share information about convention center layout and the hotels where committees will hold their meetings.

Most of the NH contingent will arrive in Austin on Monday, July 2. The committees will meet on the 3rd. The first Legislative Day (of 9) is July 5.

With the election of Canon Kevin Nichols as next Bishop of Bethlehem (PA), there's a shift in the clergy order. Those representing New Hampshire are:

Sarah Ambrogi
Margaret Porter
Benge Ambrogi
Gloria Gallant
Marti Hunt, Alternate

Kate Atkinson
Gail Avery
Richard Davenport
Sue Poulin
Janet Lombardo, Alternate

Georgia Atkinson of St. Paul's Church, Concord, was selected as one of two Province 1 representatives to the Official Youth Presence.

We look forward to sharing our experiences and other developments after our arrival in Austin!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

NH Deputation for General Convention 2018

Our New Hampshire deputation has held two meetings so far. Our organizing meeting was May 9th. At our November 29 meeting, we discussed Convention logistics, travel arrangements and reimbursements, Provincial Synod, proposing resolutions, communicating with the diocese, and other matters. And we posed for our group photo!

We expect committee assignments, for those who receive them, to be announced in coming days.

The draft schedule for can be found here: General Convention 2018 Draft Schedule.

Members our deputation members, elected at  the 2016 Diocesan Convention:

Clerical Order
Deputies: Kate Atkinson, Gail Avery, Kevin Nichols, Sue Poulin
1st Alternate: Richard Davenport
Alternates: Janet Lombardo, Kelly Sundberg Seaman, Jason Wells

Lay Order
Deputies: Sarah Ambrogi, Margaret Porter, Gloria Gallant, Benge Ambrogi
1st Alternate: Marti Hunt
Alternates: Rita Macauslan, Yvonne Jenkins

Bishop: Rob Hirschfeld

Our thanks to Tina Pickering for all her work on housing (we got our first choice of hotel), figuring out reimbursement schedule, and doing preliminary research on airfares from Manchester and Boston.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Next Steps

The flags shown here are for all the nations represented at General Convention. Ours is truly an international church.

Deputies continue to hold their positions until their successors are elected.

Part of our responsibility is to share our experiences and the General Convention outcomes with the diocese that elected us. The NH Deputation will provide a briefing at a September Clergy Day, as well as sharing with our congregations, convocations, and friends around the diocese. There will be an article in the printed diocesan newsletter.

Individual deputies were blogged at their own sites during conventions. Here is one link:

Jason Wells at GC78

And Bishop Rob Hirschfeld also wrote a reflection on what he experienced:

Tending the Vine: Reflections on the 78th General Convention

General Convention is a combination of legislative gathering, family reunion, wide-ranging worship experience, education, inspiration, and so much more. At time it is overwhelming. It also provides precious moments of insight and grace.

The 79th General Convention will take place in Austin, Texas, in the summer of 2018.

New Hampshire Deputies on the Big Screen

The House of Deputies is enormous--seating and tables for nearly 850 elected representatives, as well as a platform with executive officers, officials, staff, technicians, transcribers, and more. Plus seating for alternates and registered guests.

Therefore, large screens hang at the front of the hall so we can see the speakers and text of resolutions and amendments and results of electronic voting.

Members of the New Hampshire deputation took advantages of opportunities to speak!

Bill speaks during debate


Sarah questions procedure
Margaret gives a report from the committee she chaired

Randy give the HOD some excellent advice

Work Hard, but Have Fun!

Fun and frolic are an important--and necessary--part of Convention life. Here are some examples of how our NH Deputation uses humor as self-care.

The ERD Goat Poster--a popular photo op!
St. Francis at the Forward Movement booth
Randy & Lynn at the ERD 75th Anniversary Party
Flipper helps with an electronic vote

Deputy King from New York

Fun with gummy bears during a long debate

666, the Devil's Number, turned up more than once. It freaks out the HoD!

Utah Night

At every General Convention, the host Diocese sponsors an entertainment or activity that represents the culture and community of their location.

The Diocese of Utah invited us to the Mormon Temple grounds and the Tabernacle for a special concert. The heat of the evening meant that we spent very little time exploring the outdoors!

Inside, we first heard a group of drummers, followed by a welcome by Episcopal Bishop Hayashi of Utah, and the head of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Then we were treated to a multitude of performers: singers, dancers, choirs, instrumentalists, performing as representatives of the region. The concert closed with hymns and patriotic songs.

The Temple, where Mormons marry, off limits to non-Mormons

Another impressive building in the Temple Grounds

The Tabernacle, built in the 1870s

Inside the Tabernacle on Utah Night

Ballet Folkorico performing Mexican dances

Native American performers

Worship at Convention

There is a variety of worship at General Convention, with prayers conducted in many languages--English, Spanish, French, Navajo.

Our worship bulletins were on the Virtual Binder
A deacon from Navajoland preaches

Suffagan Bishop Mary Glasspool presides

Bishops gather to process in for Sunday Eucharist

The one on the right is our bishop

PB Katharine and PHOD Gay Jennings and deacon

Presiding Bishop-Elect Curry preached at the closing Eucharist

Here is the sermon: