On the Ground at General Convention

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Nancy Hennessey

M.Div. ’16

Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. –Matthew 18:20

This verse resonated with me throughout my time at the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church held in Salt Lake City. This was my first General Convention and, while I knew my primary responsibility was to meet and greet alumni and friends of GTS, I was not ready for the overwhelming feeling that I was a part of something much larger than our booth in the exhibit hall. Feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit despite the large space and number of participants was palpable.

As a seminarian I received an excellent window into the inner workings of the Church. It was interesting to watch firsthand how the Church governs itself and works together to address the needs of the larger body. I was able to worship each day with the greater community, witness the election of our next Presiding Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry, listen to clergy and laity offer their thoughts on same-sex marriage, hang with the delegation from my diocese, Maryland, and make new and strengthen old relationships with alumni and friends.

My fellow classmate, Tommy Watkins '16, and I enjoyed meeting with alumni and friends of GTS. We loved hearing the stories about life on the Close from those who had attended General over the past 50+ years. Those who stopped by our booth were also invited to give us one word that represented ministry to them. Each night the word cloud was updated for all to see who stopped by the booth. It truly captured the collective wisdom of so many people. Through our conversations I came to realize that there are common threads that connect us together, from one class to the next, weaving the General tapestry. At the same time each of our experiences are unique in themselves, reflecting the ebb and flow of the changing times through the years at General.

We also hosted “Conversations with General,” giving alumni the opportunity to ask questions and express their thoughts regarding last year with the members of the Board, the Dean, alumni board representatives, staff, and students. The dialog was honest and heartfelt. My hope is that the open conversation was another step toward healing and reconciliation for our beloved seminary.

I ended my time at General Convention standing with alumni and friends at the General Seminary Dinner singing “King of Glory.”  As our voices came together to sing this cherished hymn, I was reminded that despite our differences we are the GTS community—past, present, and future. We are all part of something greater than ourselves, greater than our differences, and greater than our own experiences. I gave thanks to God for allowing me to have this wonderful experience and to share it with others.