Friday, October 19, 2012

steph goes to blog class

It's now an annual event, because it's happened two years in a row. I attend the United Methodist Association of Communictors (UMAC) meeting and take a class taught by the blog-o-rific Mary Beth Coudal. Last year it was Albuquerque, this year in DC, and at this very moment people are introducing their new friends and answering the questions, "what is your experience of blogging?" and "what would your theme be?" I tried to escape but Bill from Virginia made eye contact before I could get past him so I had to admit I had answers for the questions.

What is my experience of blogging? I have maybe three blogs, somewhere out there. I keep forgetting their passwords, and I think they are tied to two different google accounts for some reason that at the time seemed sensible. I have writer's/bloggers block.  My themes? There's one on mission and justice, I think one is on gardening, and I think one is for general thoughts. I used to have one I actually kept up with that featured photos of odd signage, but it died off when the umc blogging site that had something to do with villages and continents got killed off.

So - now when Mary Beth asks, I can say I practiced writing an entry and I didn't pass out. boom.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

missing from the conversation

I'm writing from the press room at General Conference in Tampa. It's quiet here this morning, and I'm thinking hard about the conversations that have been happening here in Tampa and what they mean for us in the context of the local Church. 
I made a mental note earlier this week that we were missing some people. We learned during the Young People's address that one of the two presenters, Joy Eva Algodon-Bohol, was unable to be physically present with us in Tampa because she had been denied her visa to enter the United States from the Phillipines, where she is president of the National United Methodist Youth Fellowship.  She was still able to present, via technology and the large screens above the floor of the plenary session area, but that left her co-presenter, Krin Ali alone on the stage. Ali is 18 years old, and is from the Rocky Mountain Conference. I was blown away not just by his presence and content, but by his ability to have a conversation on a stage in front of thousands of people - with someone on a video screen. 

At the press conference afterwards we asked Ali and Algodon-Bohol about their preparations and what it was like to present together from afar. Ali explained that the two of them have never met, and instead had prepared their joint presentation entirely through skype and email, a process that he described as "very time-consuming." Agodon-Bohol, who participated in the press conference via skype, but who was not miked, said through Ali that her visa process had started in January with a denial and then a reapplication for which she has not yet had her interview. Asked what he thought about the situation, Ali said, " We have a lot of issues to address as a global community. The person who should have presented with me couldn’t be here." 
Later in the conversation, when Ali was asked about his thoughts on the future of the United Methodist Church, he spoke of others who are missing, saying " I feel like what we need to do is go beyond our church, go beyond our ways, reach people who are not in our religions. Religion has created many boundaries. Keep your beliefs, but don’t push it on others. Preach love, humility. Then we could get somewhere. We need to go beyond our own church, our own customs, embrace more people."
I think the United Methodist Church has more to learn from Krin and Joy than just what they said in their presentation to the General Conference. I think we can learn from them about what it means to find new ways to connect, in spite of significant obstacles. I think we can learn from them that the work of making room for others can be very time-consuming, and that the results can be profound. I think we can learn from to spend less time focusing on the times we have been excluded and more time and energy into welcoming others who have been excluded. And I think we can learn from them the value of seeking out, making a place, and showing hospitality to all God's children.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We paid a visit to the display area at General Conference this morning, and were intrigued to discover this booth-less booth, created by the United Methodist Women. The display, pictured here with UMW President Inelda Gonzalez and Director (and Nebraska delegation member) Marilyn Zehring in the foreground serves as a creative piece of advocacy. I found it quite powerful.

The booth, which appears rather empty, is bounded by a plain rope. In the background is a sign (pictured below)
which reads,
In 600 square feet it is impossible to show 143 years of women in mission, the work our members are doing in their churches and communities every day, the lives transformed through the global ministries of the Church, and all the ways United Methodist Women will move into the next 143 years.
So, instead, we used the money to fully fund the seminary education of two female local pastors in Cameroon.
Turning faith, hope and love into action.

I  have a deep appreciation for UMWomen and their long history of advocacy, compassion, and justice-seeking. I thought this booth was a creative way to tell their story while continuing to advocate for women. Nicely done!

General Conference - restaurant review, the Taco Bus

Good news! First, I've remembered how to log in to my long-forgotten blog, and second, we found a super restaurant in downtown Tampa Bay - the Taco Bus. Located at 505 Franklin St. (Tampa FL 33602) the Taco Bus impressed us with their speedy service, reasonable distance from the Tampa Convention Center, general tastiness, and affordability. Find out more at and a note: if you are scared of taco trucks (which I hope you are not) please be assured that the Taco Bus is a "real" restaurant with a bus attached to the front of the building...