Using the well-known musical The Music Man as an example, the Rev Gregory Straub, secretary of General Convention, told volunteers to "Treat conventioneers like the best of General Conventions, and the best of General Conventions is what they will see in themselves."
The occasion was a special Eucharist to commission the volunteers, members of secretariats, office staff, volunteer coordinators and supervisors for General Convention 2009. The upbeat Service was punctuated with smiles, laughter and a feeling of goodwill.
"I don"t expect you to go about the Anaheim Convention Center humming the Minuet in G or whistling a happy tune, for that matter, but the trick to convincing others of their own abilities to create and build and work for the church is to act with them as if they had all the best attributes necessary to accomplish their task," Straub noted. "And what they will see will not be a delusion or a mirage: their faith will make real what they imagine is already there."
General Convention 2009 (GC09) kicks off on July 8 and continues to July 17 at the Anaheim Convention Center in California (Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles).
The Episcopal Church"s General Convention, held every three years, is the bicameral governing body of the church. General Convention, the second largest legislative body in the world, is comprised of the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 members, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay representatives from the 110 dioceses, at over 850 members.
The volunteers provide numerous services and perform many duties, all helping the easy flow of business for the two week event.
The Eucharist was celebrated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The volunteers for the House of Bishops and House of Deputies were commissioned by Straub, and Bishop Kenneth Price of the Diocese of Southern Ohio and Bishop Wayne Wright of the Diocese of Delaware for the House of Bishops secretariats.
Note: Straub"s sermon is printed in full at the end.
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The Episcopal Church
General Convention 2009
Service of Commission
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Sermon preached by the Rev. Gregory Straub in Anaheim, California, 05.07.09
Do any of you remember Meredith Wilson"s musical comedy, The Music Man? The Music Man is the story of a traveling salesman, Harold Hill. Hill promises residents of small towns he will organize a boys' band for their sons in return for their buying musical instruments. Before he arrives in River City, Iowa, where the play takes place, his modus operandi has been to stay in a town just long enough to receive payment for the instruments, then to skip town before having to make good on his promise of turning boys and instruments into a band.
Harold Hill's secret is he knows nothing about music. All he knows is how to sell musical instruments, but even the most ignorant hayseed won't buy an instrument without the promise that his or her son will be taught how to play it. Hence, Harold Hill develops the think method of teaching music. While the boys who will form the band await the arrival of their instruments, Hill has them contemplate the Minuet in G.
During the town's Fourth of July picnic, Hill is unmasked as a fraud by a rival salesman. The townspeople, chagrined at being swindled by the fast-talking Hill, gather to tar and feather him, but a boys' band makes an appearance and, wonder of wonders, toots and squeaks an approximation of the Minuet in G. The think method works, and the townspeople hear what forgiving parents of children who take music lessons always hear: their children playing like virtuosi. Harold Hill, who is no musician, turns out to be a very good merchant of faith. He inspires it in the people of River City, and, because they have faith, there's a miracle: a band where there has not been one before.
Because the River Citizens are inspired by Harold Hill, a miracle attends him. Harold Hill doesn't organize a boys' band, because he can't. The band exists, because people's faith is great enough to move mountains, or at least to move the mother-of-pearl valves on instruments crafted in Elkhart, Indiana.
What does the boys' band sound like? If you and I had been there, we might not have heard competition for John Philip Sousa's band. The townspeople, on the other hand, hear a wonderful band, because they believe there will be a wonderful band. And, through the magic of the theatre, patrons of The Music Man come to believe in a band of seventy-six trombones, even though there are only two of them in the orchestra pit of the Majestic Theatre.
You and I have come to Anaheim, California, a place where most of us are strangers. We have a product to sell, which is faith in the General Convention and in our own ability to support the work the convention will undertake over the next two weeks. By exuding confidence in what we are about, we can convince conventioneers that this General Convention will be the best of all General Conventions. Together we have the gifts to provide structure for and confidence in the members of the Legislative Houses. Our job is to convince our fellow conventioneers that what will be produced in this General Convention will be music, not noise.
I don"t expect you to go about the Anaheim Convention Center humming the Minuet in G or whistling a happy tune, for that matter, but the trick to convincing others of their own abilities to create and build and work for the church is to act with them as if they had all the best attributes necessary to accomplish their task. Treat conventioneers like the best of General Conventions, and the best of General Conventions is what they will see in themselves. And what they will see will not be a delusion or a mirage: their faith will make real what they imagine is already there.
Harold Hill couldn"t sell a boys band back home in Gary, Indiana: he had to go to River City, Iowa. We might not be able to sell a General Convention in the towns and cities from which we hail: but we are in Anaheim, California, the home of a magic kingdom where mice can talk, the Alps are made of papier mâché and wishes made upon a star come true. And is it mere coincidence this is the 76th General Convention, the same as the number of trombones heard by the faithful in The Music Man?