April 26, 2012
The title is not as literary as it might seem. Rather, I am in the role of a page at General Conference. Just as I might imagine the life of a medieval page was to wait upon the lords and ladies, mine is attending to the needs of the delegates. However, instead of gruel for a meal and a corner in the barn for my bed; my board is the local restaurant fare and my room is located on the fourteenth floor of a hotel with a view of the river and the bay. It is hardly the life of servitude and poverty.
On Monday I joined the other pages and marshals for an orientation. It was fun meeting everyone. As we took the tour around the Tampa Convention Center, we casually played the game “six degrees,” but instead of discovering Kevin Bacon, we found many other connections: seminary, children, continuing education events, and common friends. If we had played six degrees of Tom Bickerton (bishop of Pittsburgh area), his Dad, Jim would have won. It was great seeing Jim for the first time in nearly eight years. The orientation went from 4pm to 9pm. I wondered what they could cover for 5 hours, but they managed to fill the time quite well. By the next morning I thought six hours of training might have been a good idea.
After a breakfast of a granola bar in the room, I headed over to the convention center to assist in distributing the conference bling for all the delegates. As we were placing the items on the tables for the 988 delegates plus ecumenical observers, there were sound and lighting technicians testing their equipment, the band and singers were rehearsing, the dancers practiced their routines, and the choir came for a morning rehearsal and then returned for a second time after lunch. The Deacons gathered around the communion table and went over their instructions for serving the sacred meal. Finally, after 5 hours, we were done and I could run back to the hotel and change.
The opening worship was uplifting and I was extremely pleased to be in attendance. I am sure other bloggers have given a more detailed summary of the experience.
The pages and marshals are divided into two teams. Each works a shift and then has a break. For example pages team A may work the morning and evening shift while team B works the afternoon. The next day it will be quite the other way. The morning shift starts at 7 and goes till your relief person comes in during the middle of the lunch break and then they remain until you return during the dinner break. The evening shift ends sometime after 9:30 (or in the case of the evening before the “Judi” bedtime rule started for General Conference around 11pm).
Marshals are the bouncers. They make sure only the delegates are seated at the tables in the plenary or legislative committees. They also direct the visitors to the appropriate galleries. They also help with any inquiries. Our role as pages is to do whatever is needed: run errands, count ballots, pass notes (the delegates not ours – we just whisper or text each other), move furniture, get water, and help any other ways possible. It is a ministry of assistance and helping. It is a ministry that many perform in the church, the community, mission projects, shelters, schools, homes, and health care facilities. The ministry of hospitality and helping is extending the hand of Jesus to those around you.