As a (I think) last post about General Conference, I want to share some of the moments that brought me joy - because despite the exhaustion, and despite the disappointments and emotional lows, there really were times of great joy and hope as well, and I really do love being at General Conference.
*The Connection - Really, the greatest joy for me of being United Methodist is the connectional nature of the church. I love going to events like GC because I love seeing so many people from so many parts of my life all in one place, all brought together by the church we still love even when it is so hard to stay part of it! I saw friends from undergrad, colleagues from my two conferences, NCNY, and Greater NJ, including getting to spend time with my once pastor Bruce Webster, another NCNY delegate who is now retired and living in Florida. I got to see most of the GBCS staff, which I especially enjoyed since I had to miss my last board meeting. I got to see friends from seminary. I got to spend time with some methobloggers, like dogblogger. There was hardly enough time and enough meal slots to get to spend a little time with everybody. But I so enjoy the being together. And that's not even counting the time I got to spend with those in my delegation, who I got to know so much better, and those new folks I met, connections in committees and meetings that I will value for years to come. For me, that's the greatest joy of General Conference.
*GBCS lunch with Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver - Rep. Cleaver is a powerful speaker and preacher. I took some notes during the lunch, but none of them are making much sense to me two weeks later! He did say something about if God is bigger than us and inside of us, then shouldn't God be showing through us? Here's a link to a GBCS article about his message that is more helpful! I thought he was very inspiring.
*Address by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia - Hearing a president speak in person is a pretty neat event all around. Plus, Sirleaf in particular was a joy to hear. She spoke with purpose and authority. She was funny, and gracious. At the close of her speech, all the bishops greeted her, and one bishop snapped her picture with his cell phone - hilarious!
*Music and Worship, but I already mentioned that!
*Young People from NCNY - I was blessed to have two young people also on the NCNY delegation with me. I consider it a gift to me to watch them experience General Conference for the first time. They both had chances to speak on the main floor of conference, and I marvel at their confidence and boldness, which I definitely didn't feel when I was a first time delegate a couple of years older than they are. They both seemed to throw themselves into everything with complete commitment. It broke my heart to witness them experiencing such painful times and painful behavior by the church, something they'd probably not witnessed in quite this overwhelming way before, but their presence in the church also fills me with hope, because despite their experiences and maybe some disillusionment, here in the UMC they both still are, sharing their unfolding leadership.