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Deputation Reflections From the 81st General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky

Jun 24, 2024

The Urgent Need for Mental Health Awareness in the Church | Tammy Pallot

We must equip our clergy with the necessary skills to identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues and to respond effectively to these indicators. In an effort to do so, General Convention 80 directed the Task Force on Individuals with Mental Illness to develop a comprehensive curriculum for clergy in mental health awareness.

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Organized Fun Amidst the Seriousness | The Rev. Monica Mainwaring

Amidst all of the important and serious work of General Convention, there are opportunities for organized fun. I should clarify, we in the Diocese of Atlanta have had fun gathering and feasting, worshipping and debating, encountering old colleagues, and making new friends – all of this is a part of the regular order of things in General Convention’s packed agenda. But organized fun is different. Organized fun, includes, for instance, a food truck festival and a silent disco.

Last night, yours truly ventured to Christ Church Cathedral for the latter. To get there, I walked past our daytime place of business, the convention center. Just hours before abuzz with more than a thousand Episcopalians, that space, late at night is clean, dark, and quiet. The sidewalks have more than a few people settling in for the night – people who make the streets of downtown Louisville their home. The work we had just done – legislating, praying, and passing and defeating resolutions about justice, economics, and how we care for one another – is contextual work. I was walking through the real-world implications of how we are being the Church together and it struck me that there is still more work to do.

I felt the same way earlier that morning when I took my morning run by the river, where ducks, visibly ill, paddled amidst plastic rubbish large and small to get to what should have been a natural shore. We had just the day before entertained resolutions that take seriously climate justice and stewardship of creation. Still more work to do.

But as I said, amidst work, play. That brings me to the silent disco. If you’re unfamiliar with the phenomenon, imagine a large dance floor, lots of people dancing, all to the beat of their own tune, literally. Everyone wears headphones, able to adjust their own volume and select their own playlist with a flick of a switch on said headphones. The silent disco’s dance floor last night was the floor of Christ Church Cathedral, situated in downtown Louisville, a place of prayer and good ministry. The sanctuary was transformed by lighting and the absence of chairs. As I danced with the crowd, I took note of the statue of Christ, placed behind the altar, gazing down at a group that varied in race, age (I’d estimate age 8 to age 80), and in rhythm-keeping ability (though with silent disco, one must not judge – one cannot know which beat a friend is keeping). I was cognizant that the walls of that space had been saturated with prayer, and I was observing that dance was also a way to pray, a way to play and pray.

After a late night out dancing, we are all up early again. I just attended a detailed legislative session contemplating our liturgy and music. I assure you that we are working. Your deputation, on your behalf, is working hard here at General Convention 81. But we are also finding opportunities to play, and I hope the Diocese of Atlanta appreciates that play is also one way to pray.

By The Rev. Monica Mainwaring
Rector, St. Martin in the Fields, Atlanta

Musings on General Convention | Archdeacon Carole Maddux

Most people don’t know this but I am a big Lewis & Clark nerd. My imagination has always been inspired by the story of the Corps of Discovery.

I mean, imagine it! Going into literally uncharted territory on a mission to learn the people, the terrain, the flora and fauna. Gone for years into the wilderness with absolutely no guarantee of return or seeing their families ever again—companioned along the way by a dog, a baby, an indigenous woman, an enslaved man, and a French trapper. Amazingly, despite capsizing and losing many provisions, all survived with the exception of one young man who fell ill.

President Jefferson had to be creative and persistent in his funding and commissioning of the Corps. He knew, though, that it was critical that the young and growing country understand the land. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lt. George Clark were to get to know the people who were already on the land—not conquer or assimilate them. They endeavored to learn about new animals, plants, and ways of life. In the process, their lives, too, changed.

So what does that have to do with GC?

Firstly, the church is entering uncharted territory and needs brave leaders to explore and learn our new and exciting future.

Secondly, we are meeting in Louisville, KY, home for most of his life of York, the enslaved man that Lt. Clark brought with him—making him the first African-American man to travel from coast to coast. Louisville has created a beautiful tribute to him on the banks of the Ohio River. This reminds us, as the Church, of our call to stand with and advocate for the oppressed and the marginalized.

Thirdly, the Corps of Discovery would not have happened if there hadn’t been a dedicated and persistent effort by leadership for resources to make this admittedly risky but needed project. Similarly, Church leadership often needs to take that “leap of faith” to make sure that new ways of spreading the Gospel and the love of Christ to all are resourced. Rather than a mindset of scarcity and fear, we are to remember the abundance and providence of God.

Fourthly, and related, the open curiosity and respect (for the time especially) for peoples and customs strange to these young people and their trust and dependence on an indigenous woman and her family, reminds the Church to remember that ALL people are children of God and our first contact should be one of respect. Particularly when we are the visitors, it is our love and respect that spreads the message of Jesus.

As we continue General Convention, may these examples of courage and intrepidity inspire us as we make important decisions for the immediate future of The Episcopal Church.

Clergy Deputy Carole Maddux
Diocese of Atlanta

General Convention 81 Reflections | LaFawn Gilliam

I have somewhat recovered from an awesome GC81. What I’m sharing is in no way all the ways and moments I witnessed God’s presence and personally saw God in the work of Episcopalians in the Jesus movement. I am grateful Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry had recovered from health issues and was vibrant in body and mind and present to fulfill his duties at GC81.

Where did I see God?

First, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that I have had the honor of serving the Diocese of Atlanta and participate as an elected Deputy to three General Conventions: 79th, 80th, and 81st.

To represent the many voices of our Diocese is a mammoth responsibility I take very seriously.

This commitment is fueled by knowing my paternal grandfather attended a General Convention in the 1950s and is shown on an exhibit for Okolona Industrial School (Mississippi) promoting funding from the American Church Institute for Negroes.

GC81 was especially meaningful for me for many reasons. Too many to list. Here are a few. GC81 ushered in a new PB Elect and my Bishop, our Bishop, The Right Rev Rob Wright was a nominee vying for the office of Presiding Bishop and Primate of TEC. Being there in the House of Deputies when the election results were announced and minutes later, the new Bishop-Elect was concurred by the HOD was a historic moment. I saw the face of God in the strength, poise, and grace of Bishop Wright and Beth Sarah when they joined the Atlanta deputation on the floor after the election results. Expressions of love and thanksgiving were overwhelmingly shared.

As a member of the Deputies of Color which consists of deputies who identify in four ethnic groups: Indigenous, Asiamerica, African Descent, and Latino; witnessing the testimonies and personal stories from Deputies of Navajoland to Petition the Episcopal Church in Navajoland to become a Missionary Diocese (C009)felt like I was hearing voices in the wilderness, cries of the marginalized seeking participation in the vision of TEC as equal. The similarities of Navjoland stories siting historical and racial trauma deeply touched my soul and I rejoiced in the Lord for the adoption of C009 resolution. Afterward, the Elder from The Diocese of South Dakota read the Prayer to Remember the Innocents, subject of Resolution C032 also adopted. This prayer written by descendants is a gift to GC81 to remember all the Indigenous children who suffered irreparable harm in Episcopal Boarding and residential schools during 1800s and 1900s. The Holy Spirit filled the floor and was ever so present at this time. As MLK Jr said,” We shall overcome because the moral arc of the universe is long and bends towards justice”.

I have loved the Episcopal Church since I was a child in small town Mississippi where my spiritual journey began. I have lived, worshipped and served three dioceses in Province IV. I see the face of God in the legislative process through the work of peoples of all ethnicities: in the laity, especially the Official Youth Presence, deacons, priests and bishops. General Convention is a vehicle for governance, dialogue and debate, building bridges and community in love, worship and prayer and doing the work of Jesus. A huge observation for me at GC81 from GC80

was an increase in requests for prayer by Deputies and the President of House of Deputies before and/or after a vote on a particular or highly debated resolution. The GC chaplains provided a source of strength, faith and healing throughout the legislative process.

There were so many voices heard, so many resolutions adopted and so much work to do together in love as siblings in Christ. Thanks be to God.

Stay tuned for more reflections.