So General Conference is kinda overwhelming.
I got up early, realized I forgot a bunch of important stuff (don't worry--- did not forget sunscreen or underwear which are the most important), finally got to Tampa, dropped off my bags, and didn't see the hotel room again for a long time after that. Now, of course, there are people who don't sleep at all during General Conference, so I should not complain, but just the running around without having any clue what is going on is pretty tiring.
But the thing about any big Methodist event is that no matter how boring voting on whether we should end at 9 or 9:30 or at the discretion of the committee chair is, no matter how tired you are, and no matter how stressful the day has been, there are these moments of intense, beautiful connection, like when I was standing in the airport and jumped into a conversation with random people because I noticed one of them was wearing UM swag. When a friend I hadn't seen in a while jumped out of nowhere and gave me a hug--- oh and there have been so many hugs from so many people! When a person I had met five minutes before bought me coffee because I was already looking frazzled. When I got a text message courtesy of one of those mass text-messaging organizing tools following a proposed rule to outlaw protests because people know how powerful our demonstrations were before and just how close we are to making the church a more just place. So that last one was a crazy run on sentence, but you get the idea. When me and some seminary friends skipped down the river walk and just breathed in the salty air.
There was a commissioning service for Common Witness Volunteers in the evening in what's called the tabernacle--- a big tent across from the convention center. In it we sang a song by Holly Near:
I am open and I am willing
for to be hopeless would seem so strange
it dishonors those who go before us
so lift me up to the light of change.
These moments of connection lifted me up to the light of change. It reminded me through all the stress and through the fear--- frankly, fear that the church won't change or that it will for the worse--- that we can do beautiful things together. Lifting each other up to the light of change.
Shannon Sullivan will be graduating from Drew Theological School in Madison, New Jersey, in May, and will serve a two-point charge in the Baltimore-Washington Conference starting in July. She is also a member of the OnFire leadership team. She blogs at You'll Never Guess What the Heathens Did Today.