Saturday, June 24, 2006

How did I miss this one!

I just went over my notes from GC and saw I had completely overlooked the one OUTSTANDING music at worship we had during the week. I meant to write about him but could never remember his last name when I sat down to type. So mark this down


The link to his web site is in the title of this post (just click on it) you can even hear some of his music. Which he describes as post modern worship. It blew GC away, sold 100 CDs in about a half an hour plus a whole bunch more when they sent out for more later in the week.

On top of that he seems to be a pretty humble guy with an immense gift.

After all the whining I did how could I forget to tell you about the one I loved?


Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'm home

And very very tired. Senior High camp begins on Sunday and I'm not fully prepared. I did some work as I could at GC but there's still lots to do. So I'm trying to wrap up my GC experience today so I can dedicate tomorrow and Saturday to camp work.

GC Overall - As with three years ago I'm struck with the civility of what went on from all sides. We spoke passionately but not in anger. Hard decisions were made, some of which disturb me deeply. We elected a female PB and I wept with joy. I worked with an amazing group of youth and adults and watched the young people grow into future leaders. I saw an amazing movie Traces of the Trade which I commend to everyone. I will take all of what happened there and pray about it and trust that God is leading us where we need to go.

Worship - I've whined enough about this I suppose but while well done it was boring and exhibited little of the diversity we can possess. I hope for better in three years. The Jazz Worship was good as was the young man who played Isaac....can't remember! I bought his CD and have enjoyed what I've heard so far.

The Official Youth Presence - I love these young people and was proud to serve them for ten days. They spoke passionately and intelligently, they attended committee meetings and made the voice of young people heard. I look forward to seeing them return as deputies (both lay and clergy) and someday as bishops perhaps.

The Host city - Columbus is an attractive city with a variety of architecture and opportunities. Some great restaurants including Due Amici, Brownstone on Main and BD's Mongolian barbecue (which is a chain that we should get here in WNY!) Also kudos to the North Market with it's wonderful Farmer's Market feel and good (and varied) meal offerings. I would visit Columbus again without a doubt.

Travel adventures - You knew I would have at least one! We flew puddle-jumpers both ways, including a turboprop! On the way home we flew into LaGuardia (don't ask me the logic of flying to NYC if you're going from Ohio to WNY) The plane was over sold by four seats and I would have taken the free ticket if the next flight hadn't have gotten me into Buffalo at nearly midnight. When we boarded we were informed that we were either 26 or 29 in the line to take off (turbo prop cabins are noisy!) and that the flight crew had no idea what the hold up was. So we sat for about an hour slowly inching our way forward.

I come away from GC invigorated and exhausted, exhilarated and disturbed. I hold my church close in my heart and will pray as we move forward. I pray for PB elect Schori and all the friends I made there.

We now return to our regularly scheduled madness.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Last day at GC

I'm running late so I'll just try and hit the high points.

Walking has slowed down, yesterday was 13,458 steps so about 6.5 miles. Too much time listening to endless technical debate in the House of Deputies.

Defeat of the moratorium resolution. Don't know how you imagine the "debate" but it was long, tedious, repetitive and utterly, utterly civil. Not a single raised voice, no shouting, no displays of anger. Of sadness yes, of anger, not a lick. By the way, it's not over. We're told to expect the issue to be re-opened this morning. The idea is to create a compromise version to give the new PB something to carry with her to her first meetings later in the year and in the future.

Approval of the election of Canon Beisner as next bishop of N. Calif. Again much sadness expressed but all very civil and sane.

Once the Windsor stuff was done the tempo of action increased, which was nice.

Music at worship continues to disappoint. Well performed but very standard and very dull. We did a piece of service music that used a Jamaican folk tune as the melody and it was played at dirge tempo. I can only hope it'll be better in '09 in Anaheim.
George Wirner preached yesterday. He was brief but very good.

Not taking a lot of stuff home this time (had to buy a new piece of luggage last time!) A couple of CDs of music and a book on prayer plus some "useful" hand outs. Turned out that my Associate rector (Susan Anslow Williams) was doing some cartoons for one of the GC daily publications. And the Youth presence got parodied by one of them.
Well I'm running late. I'll fill in the details when I get back.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Down the stretch we come!

Lots still going on even as time begins to run out...

Walking update - Sunday 11,056, Monday 13,420. Not quite sure why it's dropped off. We did ride on the shuttle bus on Sunday a couple times and with the exciting business I've been staying in the gallery to listen.

Forgot to mention the Jazz worship on Sunday. Liked it a LOT! The musicians were delayed by storms and their instruments didn't make it in time for the service so they were playing with rented instruments. VERY impressive. Music on Monday was from Elisabeth Von Trapp also very beautiful.

More reaction the election of the new PB. The GC newspaper noted that a lot of the international visitors who are here reacted very positively. At my worship table is a bishop from a small non-continental diocese (I'm being vague because I don't want to presume and I like this bishop) and he commented very favorably about the PB elect saying that he believes she will be a better reconciler than ++Griswold.

Joint meeting between the houses for the discussion of the budget. I'm happy to report that GC has lived up to its commitment to youth ministry as a priority.

GC began discussion of the Windsor report resolutions. They began with the "Expression of regret" one which drew an interesting and respectful debate with some excellent points made by both sides. The young people have spoke quite passionately and several more of them plan to speak as more of the resolutions come to the floor. I've been very proud and impressed by their thoughts. No votes announced as yet even as the debate has moved on to the resolution concerning future ordinations of gay and lesbian persons. Keep praying for the church.

Moment of humor. A female deputy with her very small baby came to the microphone. She introduced herself then added her baby's name adding that the child was a member of the "unofficial infant presence" Got a nice laugh.

Still lots of business to do, lots of pain still to be felt. These discussions are not easy for anyone and we're watching the church work its way through the pain. I remain proud of my denomination.


Monday, June 19, 2006

And history made

What an astounding day.

Quite simply the announcement of our new Presiding Bishop Catherine Jefferts Schori came as a huge surprise yesterday. The gallery and deputies broke discipline and cheered briefly following the announcement then just looked at one another in utter shock. I'm lucky enough to know one of the people who served on the committee to select the initial four candidates. She told me that she had been very impressed by the bishop of Nevada during the process and called her a "uniter". The process moved very quickly at first, the bishops had done three ballots by lunch time then didn't have a decision till between three and four. The confirmation by the Deputies was overwhelming. There were about 220 potential voting deputations (lay and clergy vote separately from each diocese) and 196 voted yes.

It's amazing to have watched history being made twice here at GC. It was interesting trying to call St. Luke's (I utterly forgot it was Sunday and couldn't figure out why no one was in the office. Being at GC is a lot like entering the Twilight Zone) and home. Even with a very strong signal I couldn't make a connection probably due to the massive amount of traffic at that time. EVERYONE was on their cell phones.

As yet we haven't seen anyone walking off the floor in protest but I expect to see that today as we begin working through the Windsor Report resolutions. It's very sad to realize that this will finally bring about the break that we've worried about for the last three years. At the same time there's almost a sense of relief. Of course it's going to be incredibly painful and there will be lots of angry words and court battles. Pray for our church.

Other news - I forgot to mention that Adam (one of the GCOYP) addressed the E3 group (an event that brings some 200 young people to GC to learn more about how our church works). He did a great job despite being pretty nervous. He followed the bishop of Colombia who was a candidate to be the next PB. Adam is also a Formula One racing fan so he and I have something to bond over. He's a major McLaren fan.

Seeing more Anglican nuns than normal (come on how many Episcopal nuns do YOU see on the average day? lol) Interesting note: there seems to be a height restriction since the average nun is about 4 feet 10 inches tall!

Met a "celebrity" yesterday -Brad Drell a conservative Episcopal blogger (Drell's Descants). I almost always disagree with him but he's articulate and intelligent. I see on his blog that he's also leaving the Episcopal church because of the election. My prayers will go with him. He was personable and very nice during our conversation in line to get lunch. He's also a Happener!

Today the legislation kicks into high gear. We did have one small victory yesterday on legislation. A resolution to encourage more young people into leadership roles had set the ages as "18-30" Several young people pointed out that the canonical standard for adulthood is 16. There was some discussion and in the end the amendment was approved as was the overall resolution. Now it has to go back to the House of Bishops. I hope they approve the change quickly. I'm very excited.

The rest of our day was a bit of a mess. The schedule (through no fault of ours or anyone's really) came apart after the election. People just weren't available etc. So we scrambled to cover things like dinner. Remember that dinner is for a group of 30! Makes planning a little complicated. Special thanks to Brown Stone on main here in Columbus. They stayed open late, kept staff on, fed us some fabulous food and all for a very reasonable price. If you're ever in Columbus I recommend it whole heartedly. They were a gift from God.

This has been an amazing event, one I will never forget. But I'm ready to come home. I miss you all.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Saturday and I'm "famous"!


One of my friends here tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the morning GC newspaper (Oh yes there is a daily paper put out AND a TV newscast.) Your humble servant was quoted on the front page! I mentioned how impressed I am with the movie "Traces of the Trade". I had made some comments in the Q and A after the showing and been interviewed by ENS. I had thought it was bound for the TV newscast (my hotel doesn't carry it so I don't know if I made that) but was quoted in the paper. Very cool.

Walking update - 16,352 steps. So again about 8 miles. Very good. Although I seem to have pulled a muscle in my right hip. Aleve seems to help. I put in 16,202 on Friday.

The schedule is starting to take it's toll on the GCOYP. They were getting snappish on Friday night. So I had the Wednesday night at camp talk. If you do camp you probably know what I'm talking about. Right around mid week the kids will get nuts, then get over it and everything will be good. Yesterday we ended up with a half an hour suddenly free. The House of Deputies were in "visiting guest speech mode" and the event we were supposed to be attending ended early! So we hung out at the Food Court and watched Team USA tie Italy 1-1 at the World Cup. It was very good for the group. Plus last night we went to the Hispanic festival event, lots of dancing and music. So I think it was a great day to help get everyone's head back on straight.

And for the record I did my white boy best to dance.

Big Eucharist yesterday. Two hours long with a 30-40 minute sermon by the Rev. Jenny Te Paa from New Zealand. It was very good even with the length. Not sure the conservative brothers and sisters would be thrilled with the message of inclusivness and against "breaking up" the church. Music was very well done but "cathedral standard" to my ear. I really do miss the musical diversity of '03. Today is supposed to be a Jazz service so maybe I'll be happier.

Quiet day on the floor of Deputies. They did elect a new VP and it's another friend of mine! The Rev. Brian Prior is the Province VIII youth coordinator (and rector and former Exec. Council member. He's a big wheel) So that's really cool. Haven't seen him yet to kiss his ring or whatever one does for the veep. The youth are very excited about today because they are planning on speaking to a variety of issues.

Today they get their 15 minutes with the PB. That's always a cool moment. Last night was the special recognition night for ++Griswold. Bishops Rosskum and Curry (Hope I spelled both those names correctly!) were pretty funny playing Regis and Cathy Lee. Friends of the Groom were very funny as always. The four valedictory speeches in between? Yawn. But on the whole a pretty neat night.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

Yr man at GC

Friday, June 16, 2006

Catching Up Part I

Sorry that I haven't blogged in a while but it has been BUSY! I'll break this into two entries so that you don't feel like you're trapped reading the whole thing.

First two things that need top of the list attention:

U2charist – This was an amazing service wrapped around the music of the Irish rock band U2. The liturgy is straight out of the BCP but music and videos are woven through out everything. Much like the Hip Hop Mass I saw at EYE last summer I wouldn't want a steady diet of it but it was an amazing, profound and spirit filled event. The crowd was surprisingly age diverse ranging from 2 year olds to a good many white haired elders of the community. And pretty much everyone seemed to have a good time. It ended with the Eucharist which was pretty cool as well. Sadly I got there late and missed Bishop Michael Curry preaching. Very upsetting. +Curry is worth listening to. I swear I'd listen to him read a shopping list.

Traces of the Trade – This is a powerful movie about a young Episcopal woman who discovers her families deep dark secret, that their wealth and standing is based on the slave trade. The documentary follows her and several of her relatives as they explore what that really means and what their ancestors (the largest slave traders in American history) did. There is still only a rough cut at the moment but it moved me to tears several times. Several of the folks in the film are here and were with us at the viewing. The final version should be available in the next year and I strongly urge everyone to see, to have their congregations see it, that everyone see it. I hope to use it as part of the diversity discussions we have at our camp program. Look for this title.

Oh update on my walking- Wednesday was 15,996 steps so that was about 8 miles. Yesterday was my day as group “leader” (we rotate this “honor”) so I had to do a bit more sitting so I only logged 15,148 steps or about 7.5 miles. I'm getting my workouts in.

Worship notes – The worship has been good. Readings are done in a variety of languages (with written translations) So far it's been English, Spanish, Italian and Japanese (I think) along with the sign language. I love watching the readings being signed. The music has not been as adventurous as three years ago. The woodwind trio yesterday (or Weds?) was very nice and we've gotten a little bit from Sandra Montes who has one of God's really great voices doing some Spanish language songs. There's a band from Hispanic ministries that usually greets us at the door to the Convention center each morning. That'll get your blood flowing.

Voting remotes - I've noted before that the deputies are having trouble with the electronic voting “doo hickeys” (that was the term one of the deputies used) Other terms include TV remote and automatic garage door opener. The latest report from the dais is that the deputies are actually getting it right about 98% of the time. Early on though people were making multiple mistakes. It has been suggested (by some very cynical person...who could that be?) that we should move to a Quaker model. Ten days of silence.

Dispatch of Business – That's a person, in this case a man named Gregory Straub. Greg is the archetypal old line Episcopalian. Tall, silver hair, deep voice with just a touch of Oxford to it and dry, dry, dry humor. A deputy had inquired as to what happened to the money placed in the UTO boxes each day, since they were empty each morning. When Greg supplied the answer the following day he made some reference to “evil tooth fairies” who might be making off with the funds. Turns out that there are properly “deputed people” (his words) who are clearing the boxes.

OK,that's enough for part one. I'll give you the rest in part two (below)

Yr man at GC

Catching up Part II

Ok let's get this caught up.

It was great looking up at the pulpit the other day and seeing a friend preaching to GC. Not just someone I know but someone I truly call my friend. Miguelina D'Espina is a priest from the Dominican and a former provincial youth ministry coordinator. She is a wonderful person and deep in her faith. And she fired up for her sermon! It was fabulous. The other sermons have been good but it's just so wonderful to hear someone you care for speaking to the entire church.

Speaking of speeches - the young people have been doing a great job addressing various bodies here at GC. Alexa from the Dominican addressed ECW, David from SE Florida addressed the Bishops (second GC in a row that a young man from that diocese has addressed the Bishops!) Jessica from Central PA addressed the Deputies and Ernie from N. Dakota addressed the UTO dinner. Great reviews on all of them. It's amazing the insight that they've found.

Funding priorities gave a bit of a fight. Youth had been given the #1 spot last time and had dropped to #2 this time behind Peace and Justice. So the battle began, youth, Peace and Justice, or Evangelism/Reconciliation. Round and round and round. I can't argue with any of them and actually the theologically based arguments for Evang/Reconc were fairly convincing. But the Roberts Rules circus was in full flight. In the end nothing changed. For the youth ministry we just hope that the needed funding is still there.

Lots of folks from WNY here, visiting, volunteering, attending various other related events (like E3 for youth Deacon Cathy Basile and Ryan Cinque from my home congregation of St. Luke's are here) and a bunch of folks from all over Province II as well. Oh and maybe we'll get a real insider working in youth ministry in the Province. Don Carlson from CNY is running for Executive Council! Yes, I'm having LOTS of fun yanking his chain about that!

I'm working on about 6 hours of sleep a night so my tail is really dragging. Yesterday was my day in charge so I was on the bounce from 6 AM till 11:30 PM. I'm glad someone else is in charge today.

Tonight the youth are meeting with the previous Official Youth Presence. A LOT of that group were elected as deputies or alternates this time. It's great to see more young people moving into leadership roles.

OK that's most of the news from here. I'm seeing lots of folks I've met before and lots of friends. I bought a present for my lady wife but she may check in here so I can't tell you what it is. But it's something beautiful for a beautiful lady.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Put one in the books

Steps total for Tuesday - 17,992 (almost 9 miles)

Yesterday was mostly about getting your feet under you. Lots of adjustments to make. There's a new computerized voting system that is giving folks some fits. I must confess to making a rather unkind comment. Given the average age of deputies I suggested they should have brought along a grandchild to help them with their technology problems.

I know, I'm bad. Mea culpa.

Wandered in the exhibition hall. Several hundred vendors there, everything from church bells to Amish fudge. Don't ask me why. Biggest problem? Not walking into someone while you're trying to look in all four directions at the same time!

The Archbishop of York addressed the House. He was very funny and very on point. He brought along a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Most of which was pretty perfunctory. One line jumped out at me where the ABC said that the Windsor report is not the end of the line or process. Interesting.

USA Today had a big article about us and the Presbyterian (also in convention right now). As usual they made it sound as if the ONLY thing going on were issues of sexuality. Stupid.

Longest discussion was on whether to send a resolution back to committee. Took over a half an hour. Wasn't even a terribly important one, mostly about future consideration of topics.

Great line - The deputies hadn't used their electronic voting stuff for a while so the person in charge of voting told them (direct quote) Since your keypads have been resting, let's wake them up"

My "best" moment? I'm trying to use my VERY limited spanish with our spanish speaking young people. While trying to explain feta cheese at dinner I glitched and instead of saying the spanish word for "goat" I ended up with "snake". The look I got from the young lady was priceless. Generally regarded as the high moment of the day by the Youth Presence.

At least I'm good for comic relief.

Our days begin by leaving the hotel at 6:45 AM so the youth can get to committee meetings and sign up to speak. We ended last night at 11:30.

This is going to be a LOOOOONG convention.

I've included the link to the GC news website in the title.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

And we're here!

Regular readers here will know that I often have travel "adventures". I'm happy to report that it was very boring flying in to Columbus. It was two of the little planes that my dad used to refer to as "puddle jumpers", including one with propellers! But no big adventures.

Was interesting when I checked in as the USAirways agent noted I was from the southern tier and began to quiz me about how difficult it was to get from Buffalo to Jamestown. Seems she has relatives down there (Hello Panebiancos!) and didn't visit them because she was afraid she'd get lost. I reassured her that it was dead simple. So maybe I helped get some family together.

Speaking of family leaving yesterday carried a little bit of heaviness for me. First because my cousin Scott died of a heart attack late last week. Scott was a cousin that I'd really gotten to know and like as an adult over the last 10 years or so (I'm the oldest in my generation so I was "grown up" while a lot of my cousins were still kids). Scott was a good guy struggling with some hard times. His death was a shock. It was an additional shock knowing that I'd almost certainly miss his funeral. Please pray for his family.

It's also tough because yesterday was my wedding anniversary, our 24th. I'm blessed to be married to one of God's best example of womanhood. My lady wife is truly amazing and has supported me in my previous career and in my ministry today. I can't imagine what life would be like without her. I love you beautiful.

Yesterday was mostly a setting up day, not much exciting. The youth are already at their first committee meetings as I write this (7:30AM). That will set the pattern for the rest of the convention. We try to wrap up the day by 10:30 and lights out at 11. Still a LONG day.

Oh and to start the "walking" total I walked 8,211 steps yesterday or just over 4 miles. That's a pretty normal day for me so we'll see how today goes.

Your man at GC

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Closer and closer

Well I'm into my usual pre-trip frenzy. Trying to remember to pack everything, what do I need, how many? I'll pack and unpack at least once.

I took my own advice and went back and looked at the posts from last time. Among the notes was that I averaged about 8 miles a day in Minneapolis. That would be 16,000 steps! We'll see how I do. My hotel is a little way away from the Convention Center so I'll get a minimum amount of walking in any way.

Back to being the White Rabbit...


Friday, June 09, 2006

And we're off!

Like a couple thousand others I will be in Columbus Ohio starting on Monday for the General Convention of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. Or just The Episcopal Church (TEC). I'm not a deputy but will be there as the Province II youth ministry coordinator, working with a group of 18 young people who will be the voice for their age group to the convention. They are an amazing group of young people and it's always a blast to work with them.

It is my plan to update this blog at least every other day, and hopefully EVERY day with my observations of what the GC is like. I might even try a photo or two. Plus I will be logging my steps each day. I use a step meter (which measures steps rather than distance as a pedometer does) as part of a somewhat successful get in shape plan. Approximately 2000 steps equals a mile (I average about 5000 a day normally over a week) So we'll see how much ground I cover.

If you have questions post them in the comment section or email me and I'll answer them if and as I can.

General Convention is an absolutely amazing event, both good and bad. It's part business meeting, floor fight, family reunion, and act of worship (liturgical and praxis) I won't even pretend that I'm an "insider" or "mover and shaker" in our denomination. I'm a youth minister from a small diocese in WNY. What I hope to offer is more of an every day guy look at this event.

This blog actually started as a way to do the same thing at our last GC. You may want to sift back into the archives to check out my impressions from that time in Minneapolis. I think this year's posts will be different since I have some idea of what to expect.

Please pray for our church, the young people and yr humble srvnt,


Monday, June 05, 2006

Life is like Math class

This is my June column for our diocesan newspaper "ChurchActs".

I still feel sorry for my math teachers. How shall I put it? I was not a gifted math student. In fact I had to struggle every year right into college with math. Eventually I got it to the point that I passed all of those classes but it took lots of work. I had to go over things and over things and over them again. It must have been frustrating at times for those teachers.
As I read the Gospels I'm sure that Jesus must have the same feelings. How many times does he have to explain something over and over to his disciples? How many times does he realize that that they STILL don't get it? It must have been hard on the disciples as well thinking that they've finally “gotten it” only to have Jesus take them back over it again.
In the end that's a reassuring thing for me though. Because Jesus DOES go back over it with them. He tries to find new ways to explain the same concepts And he never gets fed up and just orders them away. His greatest concern seems to be not that they need things repeatedly explained but rather that he only has so much time to try and get the concepts across. There aren't years and years and years of time to work it all out. In the end he knows that he can't finish the work and that there will still be learning for his disciples to do after he is gone from this world. They'll stumble and struggle and work their way toward the lesson all their lives. Along the way they'll have to repeat lessons over and over again with the folks that will come after them. It's a never ending cycle.
And that is the good news. We live in an age that wants certainty. Answers should be clear and concise. Everything needs to be fast and bite sized and not take up too much of our time. Unfortunately I don't think that's what the Gospels teach us is going to happen. We should expect a long process of learning, we should expect that we're going to get some of it wrong and that we'll have to set aside our easy answers for more hard questions. Out of that uncertainty we will be required to allow a little extra room for the others that are trying to follow the same path. What may look like a swerve off course may turn out to be the next turn that we needed to take.
In our national life and our faith life we meet lots of people who have decided that they've “got it”, that they've nailed it completely. I'm willing to grant that it might even be possible but the history of humanity argues against it. Too many times we've declared that we know all there is to know on some subject only to have it thrown back into our faces. That desire for certainty comes very often from our need to order our world the way we want it. The recurring lesson of the Gospel is that we need to be open to how God has chosen to order the world.
As we head into the summer take a moment to remember whatever subject you struggle with, where you have to go over and over till you “get it”. Remember that God is patient and is willing to work with you till you get it. Then transfer that patience to folks all around you. They're struggling just like you trying to figure out how they are supposed to live their lives.
I never thought I'd say it, but life is just like math class.