By GLENN HANNIGAN
They spent the past 10 months preparing for the big event, attending numerous meetings and devoting many nights and weekends to reading hundreds of pages of petitions and supporting documents.
Who says just because you graduated from high school decades ago, and have a string of advanced degrees, that you can avoid a mountain of homework?
They arrived in Tampa almost two weeks ago to begin a demanding daily ritual crammed with legislative committee meetings, sub-committee meetings, formal and informal side conversations, worship services, special events, not-so-special events, and lengthy plenary sessions. Squeezed in along the way: meals, prayers and sleep.
Some of the work has been exhilarating, affirming and rewarding. Much of it has been tiring, grueling . . . or worse.
Some have managed to keep their workload to 12-14 hours a day. Others have put in 16-18 hours a day.
As the North Georgia delegation, 13 clergy and 13 lay persons, prepares for the last day of the 2012 General Conference Friday in Tampa, it is, in many cases, with conflicting feelings of joy, optimism, conviction, satisfaction, soberness or simply weariness.
Here are responses from a sampling of North Georgia delegates on how well they are holding up as the final curtain draws nears:
Steve Wood (clergy delegate): I am tired but pleased with the way the Body of Christ has conferenced on important issues. I am deeply encouraged by the emerging voices of our youth and young adults and impressed by the preparation and engagement of the Central Conference delegates. The voices of both groups have added great value to our work.
Jane Finley (lay delegate): The daily schedule has been tough with 18-hour-days over 2 weeks but I feel God's strength that continues to undergird me in the decisions yet to be made on the petitions on the calendar.
Ed Tomlinson (clergy delegate): General Conference is always draining because of the long hours of meetings and the complex negotiations that accompany decisions. Likewise, there are many emotionally charged issues with which we grapple. I find fulfillment when we have done our work well and the results reflect our best efforts. I must admit, however, that getting back to North Georgia sounds mighty good!
Tonya Murphy (lay delegate): Thank God for texting, social networking, to keep delegates connected to home. I am also thankful for connections I made over the last four years with GBGM in Women’s Division. Last GC, I was so lonely - even in the great crowds. Connections have made this time more palatable. Lots of work awaits me on my return to my paid job, however, I was glad to sacrifice for my church.
Jim Cantrell (clergy delegate): I am holding up well and feel quite alert and involved. I think I was well prepared when we arrived and have made it a priority to exercise each day and eat well. I will be ready to get home, of course. I miss my wife, family and church. But I am deeply grateful for the honor of being here.
Joe Kilpatrick (lay delegate): Going strong. Even with less sleep. Getting exercise every morning.
Jane Brooks (clergy delegate): It's an honor and a responsibility to participate for the North Georgia Conference. The days are long - often 14 hours, requiring mental and physical stamina to keep up. The collegiality around our plenary table is great. I slept in an extra 45 minutes this morning while one of our dedicated reserve delegates took my seat. I feel rested and ready for the last leg.
Bill Martin (lay delegate): I would be lying if I said that I was not ready to go see my wife and kids, but it has been a fascinating time in Tampa to see the inner workings of the church. We have accomplished some major changes but still have much to do in the last two days. I have enjoyed getting to know my fellow North Georgia delegates and the other friends around the connection.
Marjorie Kimbrough (lay delegate): I am tired and will leave the GC to younger delegates next time.
Phil Schroeder (clergy delegate): Reenergized this morning after a good night’s rest. Lots of prayer support from folks back home felt here. Have gotten cards, emails, calls, tweets and Facebook messages of encouragement.
Jamie Jenkins (clergy delegate): Tired, but rested enough to give full attention to remaining legislation. Not "loving being here" but grateful for the opportunity to be a part of consideration of significant issues of the church.
Nora Martinez (clergy delegate): I am very tired and spent. The last two days have been discouraging days. Our fears came through in deliberations, when we are even afraid of saying that God loves us unconditionally. And that discussion affected my spirit.
John Simmons (clergy delegate): This is a marathon, not a sprint. A high energy level is one of the criteria for my determination for voting for clergy delegates. This NGA delegation and reserves are present and active. It is such a privilege to serve.
Lyn Powell (lay delegate): I have never loved being in painful hurtful sessions. But we delegates have to do it all when we are here representing North Georgia.
Bill Stikes (lay delegate): I am doing just fine. Rest seems short around here and I am tired, but I feel strength knowing that our work here is vital to the strength of the church for the next quadrennial. I do love being here; I believe we are doing the work of the Lord and I am grateful for being allowed to serve.