Conventional Wisdom

Having recently attended the 225 Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, I’ve been reflecting on ways to make Diocesan Convention more user-friendly. This was the 10th convention I’ve attended as a priest encompassing three dioceses and many hours of ennui. I humbly offer the following suggestions to make convention a more pleasant experience:

1. Never hold the convention more than a 15 minute drive from any parish in the diocese. Sure, this will take some bending of the conventional constraints of time and space but the Episcopal Church has a chaplaincy at MIT. They can take some time away from creating a solar laptop to solve this.

2. Diocesan assessments should be linked to the length of time the parish’s rector blabs into the microphone. If Father Mind-be-Numb feels the need to blather endlessly about a doomed resolution that’s fine. But it’ll cost him. I’d recommend adding $1,000 per minute to his parish assessment.

3. I understand that budget constraints may force dioceses to hold their conventions inside large, drafty churches. However, I must insist that the pews be equipped with cup holders and electric blankets. It’s the humane thing to do.

4. If it takes more than three ballots to fill a diocesan post, just flip a coin. No one remembers who serves on the Ecclesiastical Court anyway.

5. If the diocesan treasurer must use a lengthy power point presentation to go line-by-line through the budget, it’s only fair to equip the convention hall with wi-fi. How else can you expect to update your Facebook status by complaining about the insufferable budget presentation?

6. Smartphones are the new knitting. Get over it.

7. Here’s a resolution worth passing: “Be it resolved that from henceforth hand motions of any kind during diocesan liturgies will banned.” Although it’s fun to watch the obvious discomfort of diocesan bishops trying to be good sports as they point to the sky and stand on one leg at the appointed moment during the Prayers of the People, this shouldn’t be allowed in the first place.

8. It would be best to cut an extraneous diocesan staff position in order to serve good coffee to clergy and lay delegates. The ministry that is lost would more than be made up for in alertness. At least for a day or two.

9. Note to nominees for diocesan offices: If you don’t mention God in some way, shape, or form in your paragraph about why you want to serve on Diocesan Council, General Convention, etc, you will not get my vote. And I’m a diocesan power broker.

10. If you insist on sucking up to the bishop during breaks, please be less obvious. Fawning over a purple shirt is unseemly.

Thank you for your cooperation in helping to make diocesan convention more bearable and enjoyable for all concerned. I’ll look forward to these changes being implemented throughout the country in 2011.


13 Comments on “Conventional Wisdom”

  1. Bob Chapman says:

    With the exception of Number 1, all of these are in the realm of the doable. And, since we are all supposed to be doers of the word (Episcopalians spell that Dewars of the Word), let’s do it.

  2. “Smartphones are the new knitting. Get over it.” Cafe Press? Zazzle? I see supplementary income in your future with coffee mug and t-shirt sales with this slogan. I continue to be in awe of your brilliance. Can’t wait for the Saint Smackdown during Lent 2011.

  3. Father Tim says:

    Meredith, it’s not good form to make a priest blush. But thank you anyway. You can have 20% of the profits from this money-making scheme.

  4. Oldnorthvicar says:

    Re: #2 – Can we reduce our assessment payments in proportion to the amount of time bishops or diocesan staff speak?
    Re: #3 Why don’t we hold convention in a room that seats only ten people so the rest of us can go straight to the coffee area without the guilt?

    You should have been at the infamous Lowell convention, when one person tried to amend the budget line by line from the floor. On the second morning the bishop gave an extemporaneous meditation on why we couldn’t afford more coffee. We are downright tame these days.

  5. Father Tim says:

    Excellent amendments, ONV. I’ll forward them to the resolutions committee for additional blathering.

  6. amymccreath says:

    Hey Bob Chapman: #1 is absolutely doable. Having worked with MIT students for 9 years, I have no doubt about it. They do fifteen impossible things before breakfast, Alice in Wonderland style.

  7. Bob Chapman says:

    About MIT students: They only dream stuff up.

    You need the engineers and scientists from my Alma Mater, Missouri S&T, to actually implement it.

  8. kim A says:

    RE: MIT… It’s true… if you believe… have some faith in MIT. They can DO It! (and once they’ve implemented in it your diocese I want the next version for ours.)

  9. Bethany says:

    Thanks, Tim. This made me laugh after a very long day!

  10. (The Rev) Jan Nunley says:

    So it shall be written. So it shall be done.

  11. St. Stephen's Junior Warden says:

    Hmmmm. Interesting, (with a raised eyebrow).

    Res 3
    *To avoid drafts in “large, old churches”, well you can’t, but you can try sitting closer to the front, away from doors, distractions and under the supervising eyes of the Bishops. Convention halls are sterile and lack appealing aesthetics to entertain the minds of clergy overcome with ennui. In the old days, the center aisle pews half way up the aisle were the best seats in the house and therefore the most expensive to rent. Now you know why. Parishioners will tell you that sitting near the doors does offer the advantage of a quick escape at the end of a long service, but it does have a price attached to it…being a little chilled. Or simply stated, do what the rest of us do, wear a coat. FYI: The church was heated at 70 degrees.

    Res. 8
    *Unlike the other conventions held in large, drafty churches, St. Stephen’s allowed coffee and tea in the nave and chancel. However, we left the cup holders in the pews at the Baptist church down the street. If you don’t mind coffee in a cup the size of a thimble, I’m sure we could get some. Heck, it would also save on the coffee expense. Speaking of which, was ERD’s Bishop’s Blend, Free-trade coffee and tea, not satisfactory? Sorry, Lynn doesn’t have a Starbucks. You’ve got to travel to some of the abutting North Shore towns for that. (You know, Lynn is still a little behind in the “yuppie-development” arena.) But on the optimistic side, like most other communities in Massachusetts, there are several Dunkin’ Donuts shops in Lynn, three of which are within a two-minute drive from the church! You should have asked one of us parishioners–we would have told you.

  12. Father Tim says:

    Yikes! A bit defensive. This tongue-in-cheek post had little to do with St. Stephen’s, Lynn and much to do with a decade of going to conventions in all sorts of venues.

    I actually have great affinity for St. Stephen’s. When I was in seminary in 1999 four of us spent 10 days at St. Stephen’s as part of the “Plunge” program at Seabury-Western. Teams of seminarians went to interesting, thriving congregations throughout the country and brought our finding back to Evanston. The place was and is engaged in some amazing ministry and the hospitality displayed at this year’s convention was fabulous.

    As to the coffee, I admit I’m a coffee snob. I like neither Starbucks nor Dunkin Donuts (which is even worse). Here in Hingham I have a deal/scam going where local artisinal Redeye Roasters donates beans to the church. As I like to say it’s God’s house, not Maxwell’s house.


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