Sunday, November 16, 2008

Diocesan Convention Stories

A major part of the joy of attending our local, annual Diocesan Convention with the ministry-which-is-the-store as vendor with the exhibits is the interactions with the attendees. Many have become friends over the years, others are quickly becoming friends, others are just very interesting to talk with. Here are a few stories from this weekend’s convention, from our view with out exhibit.

The alphabetical Episcopalian: He told me that when he was about 20 years old he decided to shop for a different religious tradition than the Mormonism in which he was raised. He studied a book that listed the characteristics of each denomination and found four that he thought worthy of checking out. They were Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, and Episcopalians. Since there were congregations of each of those in the town where he lived he thought that he would begin looking at them alphabetically. He visited the Episcopal church, found it to his liking and did not leave. He said, “So, I’m an alphabetical Episcopalian.”

The priest who is a competitive rower told us of her success this summer at a big regatta on the Charles River. She also commended her congregation who supports her in her rowing passion by allowing her to be away from her congregation on four Sundays this past year so that she could compete in rowing regattas.

Two intertwined stories from a Franciscan monk visiting the convention from Alaska: We have a priest friend who lives in a town near Anchorage. We have not met him in person. Over many years, with many phone conversations we have shared our lives with each other. The Franciscan monk knows the priest. We plied Br. E with many questions about our priest friend whom we have not actually met in person as we also shared our stories of his life with the monk. What fun it was to learn that our priest friend is, among many other attributes, “normal size” and not the large bear of a man that we have created in our minds’ eyes!

Alaska has been without a bishop for several years. Because of the remoteness of the communities in Alaska and the long, community-held traditions that vary from place to place, the monk described to us how difficult it is to have the clergy in that diocese meet together and share common church-related traditions. The new bishop, whomever that may turn out to be, will have a special challenge with that diverse and geographically as well as theologically expansive diocese.

This year was the second convention for our diocese’s new bishop. It warmed our hearts that he made a quick tour of the exhibitors at the convention. It is easy for the exhibitors to think of themselves as important to the convention but also an easily overlooked ministry whose participants are taken for granted. That the bishop made an appearance, even if cursory, was important to all of those who were working the booths in the exhibit hall. The bishop stopped by our booth and shook our hands. He spent perhaps one minute in our booth, but that is a longer visit than we can remember of former bishops in the twenty-six years that we have been exhibiting at diocesan convention.

Nancy and I ended our store's presence at the annual diocesan convention of the Episcopal Church in W. Washington yesterday. We had decided to include a bible give-away as part of our exhibit. There is a new edition, the Green Bible, with all of the passages that encourage care for the environment printed with green (soy-based, environmentally friendly) ink. It also has theological articles in it about the environment. Convention attendees could enter their name to win the bible. Near the end of the last plenary session we had a drawing for the winner. A convention page then delivered the bible to the winner during the meeting, a woman from Port Angeles. After the session ended the winner came to our booth to warmly thank us. She is one of those who "never win anything" and she was thrilled. And, that made the donation even more enjoyable for us.

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