Volunteer coordinators and supervisors got their first look July 12 at the convention facility in Anaheim, California, that will be the center of attention for the Episcopal Church a year from now when General Convention 2009 convenes in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
The meeting with General Convention staff from the Episcopal Church Center took place at the Anaheim Marriott hotel, one of several within a short walk of the Anaheim Convention Center, where the main meetings of the General Convention and the concurrent Episcopal Church Women’s Triennial will be held.
Coordinators, some of whom have worked at as many as six prior meetings of General Convention, came from throughout the Episcopal Church, as far away as Quito, Ecuador, and as near as other Orange County communities surrounding the city of Anaheim, once a major citrus-growing center, now world-famous as the home of the Disneyland Resort, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball team, and the Anaheim Ducks hockey franchise.
Most of the supervisors who will work with the coordinators to oversee the 1,500 volunteers expected to staff General Convention were recruited from within the six-county Diocese of Los Angeles, although a few are from other dioceses.
Lynn Headley, representing the Los Angeles diocese in her role as volunteer coordinator, welcomed the gathering to Anaheim on behalf of Bishop J. Jon Bruno. Also attending was Dina Ferguson, chair of the local planning committee.
Leading the meeting was Lori Ionnitiu, manager of General Convention, who explained the basic structure of the triennial meeting. Ionnitiu encouraged the coordinators and supervisors to become acquainted and begin to develop the relationships that will be essential to the smooth operation of the enormous convention and its legislative work.
Ionnitiu took the group on a walk through the Convention Center, noting where the House of Deputies and House of Bishops will meet, entering the vast hall that will contain the worship space, and showing where various branch offices and services will be located.
The Rev. Gregory Straub, executive officer of General Convention, gave the group an overview of the workings of the triennial gathering, which is said to be one of the largest legislative bodies in the world, with up to eight deputies from each of its 110 dioceses representing 17 countries, and as many as 300 active and resigned bishops.
“For all its work, General Convention can seem like a party,” said Straub as he described the activities that go on outside the two legislative houses, including the plethora of goods and services offered in the Exhibit Hall and events hosted by affiliated groups, such as seminaries and special interest organizations. In all, some 15,000 deputies, bishops, volunteers, exhibitors, guests and others are expected to attend the 10-day meeting July 8 – 17, 2009.
The theme for the meeting will be “Ubuntu,” an African word loosely meaning “interconnectedness,” Straub told the group. “It has been translated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as ‘I am because you are.'”
Connecting that theme to the coordinators and supervisors, Straub said, “We shall be a convention because you are. Without you we cannot recruit and train the volunteers who make General Convention run.”
Donna Keller, ECW’s vice president for program, told the gathering that the Triennial will have the theme “Grow in Grace,” with major addresses by writer Phyllis Tickle and Bishop Steven Charleston, president and dean of Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition, the Triennial will focus on the Millennium Development Goals and feature several workshops and an “Honored Women” night, which will recognize the ministry of women nominated by their dioceses, said Keller, who resides in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
Other General Convention staff from the Episcopal Church Center staff attending the meeting included Patrick Haizel, meeting manager, and Mikah Leo, staff assistant. Canon Robert Williams, director of communications, also represented church center staff.