"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Opening Day and 1st Legislative Day

Looks nothing like New Hampshire round here!

I had a busy (but not overwhelmingly so) Tuesday. The New Deputy Orientation was cancelled. I decided to walk to a convenience store and in the lobby ran into members of my deputation who were walking to a supermarket even farther away, so I joined their group. It was a 2 or 3 mile walk in the bright sunshine, and we strolled past vast clumps of jasmine blooming and scenting the air. The wife of a Bishop was also shopping and she so sweetly and generously drove us back to the hotel.

And guess what? She's a reader of this very blog! Imagine my astonishment when, as we introduced ourselves, she looked over at me and said, "I know you, I read your blog. You're an author and a legislator." I was floored! If you read this, Saint Stacey, thanks for mentioning it, and many thanks for the lift!

At the store my friends loaded up on foodstuffs. I'd shipped a boxful to myself from NH so all I needed was a couple of bottles of wine and some ginger ale. My personal stash of food includes clementines, bananas, pitted dates, dried apricots, dried figs, granola bars, instant oatmeal packets, lots of teabags.

In the afternoon I made my first foray into the Exhibit Hall. Mind-blowing! (I was warned it would be.) The booths are sponsored by various faith organisations, vendors of vestments or church supplies, support and advocacy groups, and retail of handmade goods and clothing. There's a food court, too.

Mid-afternoon we had our opening session, with Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori giving a homily and an address by the Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, and Gregory Straub, Executive Officer and Secretary of General Convention. (Whose quirky and colourful sports coats are an absolute delight to behold!) We then had an Introduction to Mission Conversation through Public Narrative, led by Marshall Ganz. We were given a demonstration. As we will be doing more of this training, I won't take the time to describe it fully now.

In the late afternoon we had Deputy Orientation. This was my introduction to the legislative chamber--rows upon rows of tables where the clerical deputies and the lay deputies are seated. Our deputation is quite near the front, on the right hand side. There are jumbo screens up front but we're close enough to see the podium and the presiding officer.

We were taught how to use our handheld voting device.

Our first (unofficial) electronic vote was whether it was too cold in the hall. It definitely was, yet the resolution failed. I think this was a first lesson in agreeing to disagree and loving one another anyway!

The scripted demo on parliamentary procedure was very humourous because the subject matter was mandating and displaying a deputation mascot. (Which some already had in place!) After we adjourned, our NH moose mascot was installed.

The yellow ribbons on our NH signpost indicates that we have a Senior Deputy among us. Our Senior Deputy has attended 11 GC's!

Returning to the Hilton we learned about the Elevator Problem, a curse upon all conference hotels. There aren't enough elevators to accommodate hundreds of people all wanting to go up at the same time. So we took the escalators to the 4th floor and walked to the 5th where there's an open restaurant grill at poolside. We all ordered grilled mahi-mahi sandwich with salad bar. It was the perfect meal at exactly the right time.

We then headed to the 7th floor and our NH Hospitality Parlour. We didn't need the snacks after our dinner but the wine was very refreshing. (And the cookies!) The room buzzed with conversation and sharing. We have a lot of enthusiasm for our work.

I had intended to monitor a committee hearing (all the hearing rooms are here in the Hilton). But not long after I returned to my room I realised that my East Coast Biorhythm was kicking in, and maybe that long walk. I climbed into bed and watched some news (it was mostly Michael Jackson's funeral not that many miles from here) and then went to sleep at an insanely early hour.

On this, our 1st Legislative Day we meet in the Hall to elect officers of the Convention (by voice vote) and sent and received messages to and from the House of Bishops, basically both houses saying we're open and ready for business. Only we don't have much business yet so it was a brief session. President Bonnie Anderson reminded us in a wonderful way that we are not a "Naitonal" church but an international, multi-national one that is also multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural one. Her point was well-illustrated by the many colourful national flags hanging behind the podium and officers' tables, representing the European nations; Latin American countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Micronesia, U.S. Territories in the Carribean and Pacific.

Forty per cent of the House of Deputies members are new, a comforting statistic for a newbie! I'm not the only one.

Immediately afterwards we had the first Daily Eucharist of Convention and my first experience of Convention Worship. We entered the space to the sound of African drums and shout-singing. The volunteer choir led the singing, quite beautifully. The Presiding Bishop preached. A bishop from the Phillipines presented a gift from the Episcopal churches in that country and described our historic ties.

Knowing about the Elevator Problem, when I came up to my room for a cup of coffee and a morning snack, I took the escalator to the 4th floor and walked up the stairs to the 11th floor. I was somewhat breathless when I finished the climb, but with all the sitting we'll be doing throughout the day and evening I think that sort of aerobic workout is as necessary as it is practical.

Sometime today, after a very full afternoon of speakers and monitoring legislative committees and another legislative session, I expect to see the Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He will also participate in worship tomorrow.

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