This General Convention has been just about perfect. The venue was lovely – nice to have space for both houses, a large worship space, and room for ECW all in one place. The virtual binder system worked well. We all got used to Guidebook and it was helpful. (I wrote about these innovations here). Worship was inspiring – great variety in music and voices. Thoughtful, wise conversations in hard-working committees improved resolutions before they came to the houses. The chaplains of both houses created a context of prayer for the work. Minority voices were heard and respected. The logistics and processes of this convention led to good decisions that will bless this church for the next three years and beyond. And the Diocese of Utah put on a wonderful event Wednesday evening showcasing the cultural diversity of Utah through music and performance.
Building on this great work, here are a few additional suggestions for GC2018 –
- Timing – I don’t mind a 9 or 10 day convention, but I do think the timing needs to include two weekends, rather than one, to favor lay participants who have to take vacation time from work.
- Child care – It was available here, and I was glad to see it, but I understand the cost was rather high. I don’t know the budget or logistics for this, but the presence of younger clergy and deputies and their children is a gift to the whole church, and it makes sense to me for the cost of that gift to be shared by the whole gathering.
- Bulletins – The pdf bulletins in Guidebook were great, but on a few occasions I noticed that some of our guests did not have a phone or tablet on which to view them. Since it is harder to share a phone than a print bulletin, we do need a few print bulletins or tablets on loan for guests. If that is not possible, perhaps we need (gasp!) a screen somewhere to the side with hymn texts and prayers projected so that everyone can participate. If those were available somewhere this time, it wasn’t clear.
- Space for informal networks – Part of the gift of General Convention is the opportunity to meet other members of Christ’s body who share the work. This Convention encouraged the formation of many different networks. I’d like to see us build on that work by providing time and space for FREE gatherings of church planters, campus ministries, children and youth leaders, farmers and gardeners, prison ministers, food pantries, etc. The exhibit hall provides a lot of this networking, but it is one on one by nature. I’d welcome a slightly longer lunch break, with a few designated gatherings each day (well-advertised ahead of time), to foster the sorts of networks many of our resolutions have encouraged.
- Larger small groups – This is more of a rule change for Convention. On several occasions, bishops joined deputies in the House of Deputies for conversations that had implication for our work together beyond conventions – conversations about structure, mission, etc. It would help if alternates could join these conversations, perhaps even guests. The more folks who share in these conversations, the better.
- Budget document – Matthew Grunfeld from Alabama reported that the budget document was hard to read and navigate in the virtual binder. Maybe there will be a way to fix that.
- Meet together on the last day – We did not adopt a unicameral system here, and that’s fine with me, but we did adopt a change that will allow bishops and deputies to sit, deliberate, and vote together. I don’t think we need to do that on a regular basis, but it might be helpful to plan to do this on the last day. As we drew near the end of the legislative process, both houses were reluctant to suggest amendments because the other house might run out of time to reconsider. A joint session on the last day would allow time for joint consideration.
- More coffee – Especially at the end. Once the Exhibit Hall closes there are fewer options.
One last thought – please keep this bulletin board. Sometimes simpler is better.
Huge thanks to Bishop Hayashi and the Diocese of Utah for hosting this event, and to the people of Salt Lake City. Thanks also to the hundreds of volunteers who took good care of us. This was a smooth operation. See you all in Austin!
Austin photo by Ed Schipul (Flickr: austin convention center, sxsw 2011) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons