It is more than polity and policy and procedure
There were many memorable moments from the recent General Conference in Tampa, but one in particular stands out.
It was Friday, May 4, the morning of the final day. The plenary session had not yet begun and the 988 delegates, representing United Methodists from around the world, were steadily filing into the hall. Many walked slowly, heads hung low, the combined effects of the previous days’ work clearly taking its toll.
Certainly, there was good reason for the delegates to be feeling weary that morning. The vigor and enthusiasm of the opening sessions were gone. The delegates had been through nine long, challenging days of legislative committee meetings, drawn out discussions, passionate debate, lobbying and behind-the-scenes negotiations, disruptive protests, quarrelling over rules, reading and re-reading proposed resolutions, voting on proposed amendments, voting on proposed amendments to proposed amendments, and voting on whether to limit voting.
For two weeks the delegates had been away from home, church and loved ones. They had been sleeping in hotel beds and eating restaurant food. And, of course, they all knew that at the end of this meeting marathon, there would be no medals or laurel wreaths handed out. There would be no bonus check or, for most, even a simple pat on the back. They would simply pack their bags and head home.
Exhausted. Bleary. Spent. And, in some cases, delegates might have been a bit disappointed or disillusioned about the vexing process or decisions that were made or not made.
It was all understandable, even predictable. That’s why Friday morning was my favorite moment.
Before the 8 a.m. plenary session began, praise music resounded throughout the large hall, emanating from one of the guest choirs that had been invited to perform during the conference. The songs were lively, loud, joyful and passionate. They were also infectious.
The music had nothing to do with legislation, budgets or restructuring. But it seemed to have everything to do with the reality of salvation for today and hope for tomorrow.
A few delegates turned to face the choir and soak in the joyful noise. Soon, more people converged. Smiles were spreading across tired faces, hands clapping in time, voices of the delegates added to the voices in the choir. The worshipful little group was suddenly energized, enthused and joyful, like they were just getting warming up for Sunday morning service.
Though a particularly challenging day awaited the delegates, the spontaneous outbreak of praise and worship, so early in the morning, changed the tone for a moment. It was an unlikely time to see such spirited enthusiasm and joy, which is why it was so much appreciated.
In the final morning, an unscheduled resolution for worship was earning popular support, not with the push of an electronic button, but with hearts and hands and smiling faces.
There was no dissent.
Glenn Hannigan is the editor of the North Georgia Advocate. To contact him email: firstname.lastname@example.org.