What I saw yesterday: Tuesday April 24, 2012:
A quiet neighborhood of houses: I took a morning walk in Ybor City where a dozen of us are staying. Our two 1920’s tourist rentals are amid a mix of modest homes. This area began as a Cuban settlement near waterfront Tampa. In the early 20th century it was host to a vibrant culture of immigrants who continued their proud history with revitalization in the 70’s and into this era. Gentrification has created upscale condos, tourism, and a business district of brick and wood storefronts. Cuban cuisine and nightclubs abound. If you want a tattoo or a hand-rolled cigar, this is the place.
People committed to excellence in ministry with rural churches: Rev. Carol Thompson invited a few of us to the luncheon meeting of the United Methodist Rural Fellowship. We heard of their decades of work and enjoyed the strength of their mutual inspiration. We acknowledged that a large majority of churches in Oregon-Idaho would fit their definition of “rural” -- being in a town of 50,000 or less!
A sparkling waterfront: I walked from lunch to the Convention Center in perfect weather using the newly developing Riverwalk. It keeps the motels and tourists in touch with the beauty of Tampa Bay -- which I hope builds respect for the natural environment and responsible living along the water’s edge.
Musicians, Dancers, and liturgical wonders: Dr. Marcia McFee planned and led the opening worship along with dozens and dozens of creative people drawn from across the Methodist connection. Mark Miller, who will lead music at our Annual Conference session in June, composed and helped direct the opening musical fabric of the service. A choir of hundreds of Florida United Methodists sang. About a hundred Bishops processed, and nearly three dozen deacons (including our own Laura Jaquith Bartlett) assisted in the Communion liturgy.
Training, Testing, and Tedium: In the evening, the first business session addressed the need to be culturally sensitive and considerate of all. 41% of all delegates are from countries other than the US. This is a challenge in all cultures and requires simultaneous translation of all business into seven languages. Rev. Lyda Pierce, who served at Eugene First UMC, is serving as a Spanish translator and her husband, photojournalist Rev. Paul Jeffery, was seen taking pictures. Electronic voting devices were tested. And the Conference Rules were debated and amendments proposed in a disheartening return to tedious business, with the first-night’s session going a half-hour longer than hoped for. We shall see if we can achieve more effective conversations and action the rest of the week.
You, on Facebook: General Conference Sessions are being streaming live at gc2012.umc.org and several people were commenting on Facebook as we were in session. What a delight to have you worship virtually with us. And what a wonder that you can watch the irritation build at legislative process details. Thank you for being so supportive – and even for singing along with worship; it will be at 8:30 PM Wednesday (5:30 PDT, 6:30 MDT). We’ll be streaming the morning plenary starting at 8 AM here in sunny Tampa!