Ahhh.... Day 6. I find that as a group we can usually make it until Day 6 of General Conference in a general state of benign something-ness and then the veneer starts to chip. Perhaps you have been to a flea market and seen what was once a lovely piece of furniture, dresser or library table that in its glory days appeared to be sturdy and impervious to harm; a side table that has seen contact with a wayward bowling ball, a spilled bottle of ink, a teething puppy, and a forgotten glass of water or two - and has developed a wobble, a few ripples and some dents. This is one way to describe Day 6 of General Conference.
Some, however, were already well aware that the flea market find had its issues. The Love Your Neighbor Coalition has been working to prepare for General Conference, seeking to help our denomination figure out to live into our hope of being the denomination of Open Minds, Open Hearts, and Open Doors and I think more importantly living into our hope of being a people who worry more about embracing a more theologically and functionally consistent notion of what it means to love our neighbor. The photo above is from opening worship, which included Communion. You'll see Bishops at planned Communion stations; in between you will see a banner that says "remember me," held by two volunteers from the LYNC coalition and two more volunteers holding communion elements. I took this photo from my seat in the visitor/reserve delegate section. The (apparently) headless suited man on our left of the banner is a social media friend of mine. I was so excited to see him that I didn't even notice the alternative communion station! All I could think was, I hope I get ushered towards the station near Will so I can thank him for holding that sign up!!! Only when I got back to my seat did I realize I could have headed to the alternative communion station.
I've been receiving texts, emails and messages throughout the week from friends asking me what I think will happen. That's a rather large question. The people asking probably are referencing whether or not our denomination will split over homosexuality, and whether that action will happen by the end of next Friday. I think there is another question to consider, and it goes like this: Will we allow the institution of the Church to be just that? The Church isn't God, it is a collection of structures that humans organized to make it easier to do the work some people agreed was good to do to teach others about God. Back on the flea market metaphor, if you spend all your time trying decide which color of shabby chic paint to select for your reclaimed dresser - you might forget to measure to see if the dresser fits in the space available. I feel like in the flea market of life, and in the United Methodist Church, there can be, should be, and is room for all the furniture, all the orphaned salt and pepper shakers, all the mildewed cookbooks, and all the unmarked starting-to-rust car keys stored in cardboard cigar boxes that are not sturdy enough to be turned into purses. I am pretty sure Jesus said somewhere that God is the ultimate collector, and I think as disciples we are called to keep looking until we find the treasure in one another.
I like to post garden photos - here's one from Portland. Keller gardens, near Portland State University and the hotel where Rebecca and I are staying. I don't know the story of the rose petal heart - but it was a gift to find this sign of love shortly before we headed to the Convention Center to register for General Conference.