What Happens in Austin DOES NOT Stay in Austin! by Beth King

Although I attended General Convention in 2012 as a volunteer, attending as a first-time deputy to GC held all kinds of surprises and new experiences. I returned excited, changed and hopeful.

Long 10-12 hours days bouncing between committee meetings and House of Deputies Legislative sessions occurring in separate locations certainly improved the numbers on my fitness app! By day three it was a piece of cake racing up and down 2nd Street in Austin passing familiar faces - some names I knew and some I did not. But I recognized the occasional weariness as it mirrored my own. 

The work was exhausting, physically and mentally draining, frustrating, invigorating, stretching, thought-provoking, affirming, calling, searching and expanding. It covered the gamut. And I knew I couldn’t wait to do it all again!

Meetings of the Committee for Racial Justice and Reconciliation, of which I was a member, brought new sacred relationships that could also be challenging. Passion and conviction for important causes forced us all to dig deep, practicing what we preach. We quickly discovered that what at the onset seemed like a long, long conference would barely provide the time needed to accomplish our goals. In the end we relished the success of having collectively dealt with our work and developed strong friendships that will continue long past GC.

Early on, as the committee met in small and large groups to hammer out resolutions that would later go before the entire House of Deputies (HOD), I found that I had to constantly check myself to listen more carefully to all the voices in the room. The growth was fast and furious and the learning curve steep. It was great!

Throughout the conference, I had the privilege of being a part of the marvelous group of people you have come to know as the Diocese of Atlanta Deputation to General Convention. These dedicated individuals did not just show up at our assigned table each day to fulfill some duty. They were present in every way from constantly studying the day’s resolutions, to updating each other on committee work, or simply adding the “glue” to a cohesive group. In all circumstances you, the folks back home, never left their thoughts. Talk invariably included how conversations might take place upon our return home over issues being considered that day and how it would impact our collective church lives. These were often difficult topics that would surely generate some difficult conversations in parishes throughout the Diocese. This was indeed the work of the church, for the church. I encourage you to be on the look-out for opportunities that are presently being planned to discuss such things as Prayer Book revision, Immigration, Israel/ Palestine, and same-sex marriage. The deputies will no doubt find ways to share what happened in Austin. As was mentioned in publications we took all of you with us; the name of every worshipping community in our diocese was on ribbons that hung on our “totem pole” which displayed the name of each diocese. We were aware of your presence with us.

I would like to thank all of you who followed us during GC. It meant a great deal to read comments or “likes” to our postings on Facebook and other social media. We were feeling the love and prayers and were sustained by it. Keep asking questions and feel free to reach out to any of us to visit your parish to share our experience. Continue to explore the issues because GC was only the beginning. Be a part of the conversations. 

A big thank you, also, to all our families who supported us and held down the fort during our extended time away.

It is impossible to speak of General Convention without mentioning the pigeons! Our feathered friends showed up and decided to stay, credentials or not. They became unofficial mascots and often provided some much-needed comic relief. They were quite the celebrities. I’ve always said God has a sense of humor and this was a perfect demonstration. I wonder what they told their friends about the human’s actions?

Lastly, Bishop Curry, repeatedly exhorted us to “Follow the Way of Jesus” both in Austin and on returning home. He reminded us that what happens in Austin better not stay in Austin! This was to be continuing work, personally and in community. We practiced this throughout our work there and imagined how we might live it out at home inviting the whole diocese to join us.

I’m going to circle around to the beginning now when the first article was published in Connecting in March as we prepared for General Convention. “And this means what to me?” It means everything to all of us. The work of GC eventually makes its way back to each parish, each pew, each conversation in Sunday School, each interaction with your fellow human. It all speaks to who we are as Episcopalians and who we are as beloved children of God.

Some stats from General Convention:

  • 517 resolutions were dealt with: 19 incomplete, 498 complete
  • Hot topics: Prayer Book revision, trial use of marriage liturgy, same sex marriage, return of Cuba as a diocese of TEC, Israel/Palestine issues, immigration, evangelism, racial healing, justice and reconciliation, and of course the budget. (and the pigeons)
  • Legislative sessions: 47 hrs
  • Legislative committees and hearings: 29 hrs
  • Worship: 38 hrs
  • Round trip to Austin: 951 miles and 2hrs flight time
  • Typical steps tracked during GC: 82,000+
  • Average hours of sleep: 5 hrs
  • New phone numbers I came home with: about 20
  • Weight gain: 5 pounds
  • Snacks on deputation table: Granola bars, Kind bars, Hersey’s miniature chocolates, nuts, crackers, pretzels, etc. - hence the above number but it kept us going!

Blessings and peace,

Beth King