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Volunteering at General Convention as spiritual practice

Volunteering at General Convention as spiritual practice

by Catherine Ambos

Teachers have those LONG summers off, right? I do not do well with large, unstructured periods of time, so I usually volunteer in a friend’s research lab over the summer. This summer, however, I took time off from that “job” and traveled as “staff support” for the Diocese of New Jersey’s General Convention Deputation. My husband was a Deputy. He goes to my professional biology teachers’ conference each year and provides invaluable support; I was returning the favor. After a few grocery runs (as well as visits to the Minute Clinic for minor emergencies) and making QR codes for several exhibitors, I was running out of things to do. Hmmm . . . a Volunteer booth at the far end of the Convention Center. Perhaps they could keep me out of trouble for the rest of the Convention?

At loose ends, I walked up to the booth on Saturday, July 7, and immediately became part of the family. I had a place, my contributions were appreciated, my mistakes forgiven. Each shift began with prayer (and ended with prayer, if we were all in one place). I felt centered in a way that I do not in my day-to-day life. Every contribution of time, no matter how small, was welcomed and made that volunteer part of the family. I joined a corps of blue-vested volunteers scurrying around, aiding the ebb and flow of business at the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church. In the heat of July, I felt the Spirit moving through Indianapolis.

I was especially struck by the Supervisors and Coordinators. Their unfailing cheerfulness and patience (especially at the Volunteer Center) impressed me as a model of the Christian community, welcoming anyone interested in joining. They carefully taught the rules and procedures, warning us that no two days ever ran the same and that, yes, at times we would be told to do something we had been told we should never do. “Here are the rules, use your head.” Scripture informed by reason. Sounded familiar. This was one of the most humbling and uplifting experiences of my life.

I will return to my classroom in a month and a half, repeating to myself, “Breathe. Let the Holy Spirit flow in,” and thinking about Kim, Chris, Keith, Katie, Dave, and all of the other Supervisors and Coordinators who were Christ to me that week. I will remember their gentleness under constant pressure. The 77th General Convention gave me the opportunity to share through service in a Christ-centered community. Thank you.

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GrandmèreMimi

Thanks for the lovely account of your service at the convention, Catherine. It's in giving that we receive.

June Butler

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