So I was sitting in the room today, paying attention to the day’s business and I started reflecting on what we were doing in the context of the larger issues facing the church both nationally and locally. Such issues and the need for change were acknowledged–in Bishop Miller’s sermon last night and address to the convention today, and in Assistant for Congregational Development Peggy Bean’s report as well. Still, that need for change and for thinking about change was not reflected in the business of the day. We elected people to Executive Committee and Standing Committee (as well as other offices), debated resolutions, and passed the budget. It was very much like conventions I had attended in the previous two years in the Diocese of Milwaukee, and before that, in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.
Two things struck me more than anything else. First of all, the age of those in attendance at the Eucharist yesterday evening. We were old, probably 90% of us over 50. Second, our Eucharist was celebrated in a church that was perhaps a symbol of the church that existed in the 19th and 20th century–a huge edifice, the nave constructed in 1866, capable of seating 400 or 500 people, in a downtown filled with boarded up buildings or, surprisingly, a lively nightlife, if the streets I drove through late in the evening were any indication. In other words, it was a building constructed in a different era, culture, and for a different church. They’re doing something remarkable and new, however, having begun a hospitality center for the homeless this past spring that has seen remarkable growth in the numbers of those involved both in volunteering and those seeking help.
Our conventions–the very notion of them–are a product of a different era, different culture, and different church. They are constructed on a legislative model, necessary of course, but are they capable of being the places in which creative thinking about ministry and mission might occur? We elect officers, debate resolutions and budgets, all the while the hard questions of what it might mean to be the Episcopal Church in the twenty-first century are not being discussed.
What would it look like if instead of debating minimum compensation packages, health insurance, and concealed carry, we had discussions about the future ministry and mission of the Episcopal Church in Madison, Racine, Richland Center, and the Diocese of Milwaukee?
For info on what we did today, here’s the website for Diocesan Convention.