With the Annual Meeting being held online again this fall, communities might be looking for ways for delegates to feel connected to one another, discuss ideas and communicate around topics of interest, and still participate fully in the business of the meeting. Last year, several faith communities found a way for their delegates to do just that.
The Revs. Ali and George Lufkin of St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church in Manzanita gathered their delegates in the church for last year’s annual meeting. “It was very clear [before the meeting] that our delegation wanted to be together and have that company,” said the Rev. Ali Lufkin.
Each delegate brought their own device as they each were required to log into the meeting for voting and to speak; however, their individual cameras and microphones were off, unless they wanted to speak to convention. A livestream of the meeting was projected on a television, which allowed the group to feel more cohesive and still have table conversations, something that is a norm at an in-person annual meeting.
Further south, another community, St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Shady Cove, gathered their delegates in the social hall and also invited members of the congregation who wanted to watch the livestream come to the church to watch in another room and offer prayers in the sanctuary.
“It was the best of both worlds,” said the Rev. Laura Sheridan-Campbell, Vicar of St. Martin’s, and Secretary of Convention. “This provided us a way of being our delegation in person. We were in our church, it is not one delegate at their home and another at theirs… it is us together. The person praying [in the sanctuary] is praying for the whole convention.” The community of St. Martin started this tradition of gathering as a delegation at their church with the online Electing Convention for the Bishop in 2020.
The Rev. Canon Beto Arciniega has worked closely with the Latino delegations for the last three years in a similar capacity. Two Latino delegates and a clergy member from the communities of Todos los Santos, Hillsboro, St. Michael-San Miguel, Newberg, St. Mary, Woodburn, and Holy Cross-Santa Cruz, Gresham meet in one space to participate. “This made it possible for [delegates] to get to know each other and establish a relationship that facilitated the participation in the different parts of the meeting,” said the Rev. Arciniega.
In addition to the Zoom 101 training and Delegate Training offered by the Committee on Dispatch of Business, this year scheduled for October 3 and October 5, respectfully, a gathered delegation can assist with tech issues. “The training before the annual meeting was instrumentally helpful as well,” said the Rev. Sheridan-Campbell, “as it allowed our delegate to become comfortable with the technology.” Similarly, the Rev. Arciniega offered training in Spanish to the Latino delegates and provided tablets for those without a Zoom-supporting device.
“It was supportive and much more collaborative,” said the Rev. Lufkin. If a tech issue were to arise, it would be easier to troubleshoot it and not miss the business of the meeting when multiple people are there to assist when the livestream is broadcast.
“[Meeting online] made it possible for the interpretation into Spanish to be more accessible to the participants and doubts or questions could be answered as a group,” said the Rev. Arciniega.
Gathering as a delegation at the church not only has the benefit of coming together to converse about the resolutions and other business at hand but also offers an opportunity to have a meal together. “People got really excited,” said the Rev. Sheridan-Campbell about the delegation’s lunch break, “the people in the sanctuary joined for lunch as well.”
“It was like we had our own convention,” said the Rev. Lufkin. She shared that during the first break, the delegates went home to gather snacks to share, a benefit she said of meeting only five minutes from home. “We all brought our own snacks, it felt very festive and supportive, and we had so much fun.”
The collaboration and fellowship are not the only benefits when delegations gather at their churches to participate in the online annual meeting. The Rev. Sheridan-Campbell mentioned that the freedom from the financial and time commitment of traveling to one place for an annual meeting allowed for some of her delegates to “fulfill their role as delegate that they would not have been able to do if [the diocese] were meeting in Salem.” Meeting online allows for the necessary business of convention to be accomplished without the burden of traveling and lodging.
And it is worth mentioning the environmental impact of gathering for the annual meeting, which is often just for delegations and centered around the business of the diocese. “The benefit to the climate of staying local for a meeting such as this is really important,” said the Rev. Lufkin, “it is more earth-friendly.”
“Our delegates take [the annual meeting] seriously and are committed, and they are not disappointed that they do not have to drive to Salem,” said the Rev. Sheridan-Campbell. She did recognize that for some there is a sense of loss in not gathering as a diocese for the annual meeting. The Rev. Lufkin shared a similar sentiment, “[Since] we didn’t have the choice to meet in person as a diocese, this was the next best thing, and it was nice to have the afternoon free and not have to drive hours home after the meeting.”
It is important to recognize the palpable need for gathering as a diocese, particularly with the bishop who has yet to gather with the entire diocese. It is essential that the diocese join as a whole – not restricted to delegation status – and it should be a time of fun. In May of 2024, the diocese will come together for a Renewal Gathering at the Salem Convention Center that will be open to anyone in the diocese. It will be an event dedicated to the joy of being together—worshipping with and learning from each other.
The 136th Annual Meeting of Convention is scheduled to be in person in the fall of 2024.
However, for this year’s annual meeting, gathering delegates to meet at a church to participate (while still logging on with their individual computers for voting and speaking purposes) is a way for communities to feel connected, engage in conversation, troubleshoot any issues that may come up, and enjoy meals together. “We really like each other, and we like being together,” said the Rev. Sheridan-Campbell, “and other churches can have this too if they want.”
If your delegation is interested in something similar and needs some support in how to make this a possibility, feel free to reach out to Alli Gannett, Director of Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your options.