unConventional experience

Buttons, bands and more contribute to lighter side of Columbus experience
July 1, 2006

The hottest item you could get at General Convention this year wasn’t the beloved Amish fudge.

It wasn’t any of the T-shirts with their clever sayings offered for sale in the Exhibit Hall. Not the “Kenyon is not near Uganda” shirt that made some folks laugh right out loud as they passed by. Not the “A woman’s place in the house … of Bishops,” though that shirt, a slow seller until election day (Sunday, June 18), was long gone by Monday noon.

The favorite item this year was a small pink button designed, produced and distributed almost over night. “It’s a girl!” it proclaimed in bright white lettering above the name “Katharine Jefferts Schori, 18 June 2006, EWC.”

“It was Gene’s idea,” whispers a friend in the know, referring to Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The Rev. Cynthia Black, former president of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, a deputy from Michigan and an accomplished designer of buttons, heard his remark at an early-morning meeting and said, “I can do that.”

So, with a little help from a friend and a local vendor, she soon had 500 of the buttons ready to hand out at a celebration party Monday night. Hundreds came through the undercroft of Trinity Church that night to toast the new PB-elect, shake her hand, grin, gossip, exult and dine on the free food that kept arriving, platter after platter, from other parties.

All present pinned on the badge, charmed. Folks begged for extras to send to wives, girl friends, rectors. But organizers were strict – one button per person. All knew instinctively they’d become collector’s item. Every one was given away.

The next day, the buttons were the talk of convention. “Where’d you get that? I want one.” Mention of the buttons made The New York Times, the London Times and more than a dozen blogs, friendly and not-so-friendly. Pestered relentlessly, Black had to order more. Maybe she still has a few for you. Try the website http://episcopalwomenscaucus.blogspot.com/.

‘unConventional’ indeed

A satirical newssheet, the unConventional times, appeared for the first time at this General Convention. Bearing no names or credit lines, the often hilarious, occasionally scandalous sheet stated beneath its logo simply: “an unofficial journal of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

“Who is writing this?” convention-goers asked each other as they guffawed over a column listing the Hollywood stars said to have been chosen to play roles in Fahrenheit 815, also known as General Convention: The Movie.

A young man delivering bundles of the one-page humor missive was secretive, divulging only, “It’s a bunch of Gen-X priests.”

Since Episcopal Life, surely, cannot be sued for copyright infringement if no authors are known, we reprint here, slightly abridged, one of the milder bits of humor, a column titled “Lexicon-O-Rama”:

The Episcopalian predilection for acronyms can be confusing. But UCTimes is here to help. What follows is our GC ’06 lexicon-o-rama.

MDG: Millionaires Doing Good
ACC: Anglican Conspiracy Council
PB & F: Partial Budget Funding
ERD: Every Ridiculous Disaster
ECUSA: Everykinda Christian Under the Same Auspices
ABC: Popular Song by Jackson 5
ARC: African Retaliation for Colonialism
LGBT: Lingerie, Garter Belts & Thongs
AMIA: Angry Men in America
HOB: Humorless Old Boys
HOD: House O’ Woe Be Gone

To learn the names of the Episcopal Church bigwigs paired with Hollywood actors, find a deputy to convention and ask to borrow a copy.

And the band played on

When it came time for the Sunday convention Eucharist, the band almost didn’t play on. Jazz Sunday, a Texas sextet, called from the airport on Saturday night to say their connecting flight had been cancelled because of the weather, that they were renting a van and that their trombone, their bass guitar and their drumsticks were missing.

The church’s chief liturgical officer, the Rev. Clayton Morris, took that call. Frantic, he started phoning Columbus area musicians, begging to borrow. Instruments began arriving at the front desk of his hotel. Meanwhile, the no-longer stranded musicians, in their rented van, spotted an all-night Wal-Mart. At 3 a.m., they bought themselves appropriate Sunday clothes. Arriving at their hotel at 4:45, they had just enough time to shower, change and get to the convention center by 6 to rehearse for the morning Eucharist.
And they were a smash. “I don’t remember ever in my life hearing 7,000 Episcopalians, arm-in-arm, swinging back and forth singing Jesus Loves Me,” Morris said afterwards.

Thank you, Bishop!

Bishop Michael Curry, preacher par excellence, gave this newspaper a big boost in Columbus -- twice that we heard, once in his sermon at the U2Charist and once on the floor of the House of Bishops -- when he told of his evangelism dream, his vision of the future. He saw, he said, across the land, going out two-by-two just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Episcopalian evangelists armed with their copies of Episcopal Life. (We loved it!)

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