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- September 13, 2015
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Most of the friends I knew before I arrived at General Convention on the generosity of grants. They were spread between Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Episcopal Service Corps or the Young Adult Festival. They fit the bill of a disillusioned-with-the-church millennial, hanging onto shards of their faith, with somewhat politically radical political praxis.
I heard many folks testify on extremely important issues. Some of these folks looked like my friends, others did not. After sitting in hearings and meetings where many speakers resembled the very specific demographic that overwhelmingly fits the description of the house of bishops, I felt exhausted. The overwhelming filibustering and out of order turns of speech left me exhausted. People were taking over each other and deliberately misusing our political process to run out the clock. Honestly, much of General Convention felt like a giant, church-wide vestry meeting—the good and the bad parts of a vestry meeting.
At those committee meetings or hearings or in the houses, I mulled around silently in my seat. Sometimes I’d burn with rage, sometimes I’d shed a tear, sometimes I’d rejoice, but for the most part I’d be listening and taking notes. I so desperately wanted to speak or to testify. But I also knew that some of these people had worked to bring their hearts and minds to the table. I was also scared to speak. What would my potential future employer think? Would my opinion change in the future? What if I said something wrong or hurtful? I know some people were trying to speak for me, as a queer person. Many people tried to represent me in committee meetings and hearings, even though they didn’t know me. Regardless, I sat. I sat still, uncomfortable, and yearning.
I found hope in transitory spaces—in times when I was literally moving around. These were times when I would have engaging conversation, time to ask questions like, “what the heck happened there,” and “I can’t believe they just said that” or “the episcopal church really needs to bring this [insert random political thing] to a resolution,” or “why isn’t the episcopal church talking about [insert political thing here].”
Moving around looked something like this: I’m sitting in a committee meeting, and I receive a text saying that I should probably be following this other committee. So I’m bustling out of my chair, apologizing to the people sitting to my left who I scoot past in order to leave the room. I begin a brisk walk into the hallway so I can make testimony on time, only to be stopped by a teaching fellow at my seminary, who happens to be in the hallway. She pulls me aside because she knows some other person that I absolutely must be connected with because we share political ideologies. “They’re working on [insert very specific political thing here],” she announces. This new stranger and I look at each other. We immediately pronounce, “oh my gosh, we must exchange contact information so we can discuss this [very specific political thing] later.” And we do, and we will. Thanks to the hospitality of my teaching fellow, I now feel a little less alone about [what I consider radical] ideologies than I did ten seconds ago.
I detected that hopeful connectedness all over General Convention while moving, while texting, while viewing tweets. I felt connected in transitory spaces, online or while moving from place to place. During break time, a huge mass of Episcopalians would be communicating. That communication, the communication that happened, sticks out to me. The body of Christ was communicating in many different ways in reaction to everything happening. I was communicating with many about what was being said, and many folks were making heard what hadn’t been heard in committee meetings.
We unearthed hope knowing that somewhere in that house, regardless of what was happening, there was someone with a similar scowl or similar smile. There was someone crying, lamenting, or rejoicing with us. We were connected. There were more than two gathered. We were one body united in Christ. And even if that new friend in the hallway was the only one interested in [very specific political thing] that was one more person than I had known earlier. That solidarity, the knowledge that I am not alone in this work, reignites my desire to continue working, continue listening, continue learning.
I hope all in our church can have an opportunity to feel connected, to feel spoken for, to have the ability to have their voices heard.
I thank Oasis and Integrity for this grant to attend General Convention, without whose help I would not have been able to attend.