Here we are at the beginning of the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Chicago. Temperature in the mid-80s. They called it Mostly Cloudy. Some of the day was downright wet, and not because of the 68% humidity. It rained, sparking conversations about how dry it has been in Fillintheblank, Whereiamfrom, and the rain would sure be welcome there.
There are lots and lots of Lutherans here. Some are just arriving for the start of the assembly tomorrow. Others have been here for a couple of days, attending workshops on Worship and other subjects. There is just something about Lutherans in groups or individually that allows you to pick them out of the crowd. There’s a measured pace to them, a look of calm assurance, a certain politeness coupled with an expectation that you are going to do your very best to be organized and efficient – because they tend to be, and just know that you will be too, won’t you.
The Hyatt Regency Hotel is nothing short of massive. There’s a whole separate platoon of people behind glass just working the underground parking lots. Every time you turn around there seems to be a hotel employee standing there, who immediately smiles and says “hello” if not asks if you are being taken care of. And they are efficient; things happen when you ask.
That said, the hotel was 100% booked two nights ago, last night, and tonight. 2500 rooms. This means that changing over from one group to the next as we come in and the FEU Medical Physics folks go out created situations in which there weren’t rooms available when we showed up to register. It all works out in the end, but folks had to cool their heels waiting with their luggage.
This morning it was apparent that, whatever our differences may be on substantive issues, wanting a cup of coffee in the morning is not among them. There was a huge line at the small coffee shop at the base of the escalators leading up to the reception desk. If you wanted to talk with Bishop Hanson, you could – as he was in the slowly moving line that ran through a veritable gauntlet of reasons, left and right, that you will be going on that diet next week.
The ELCA has stationed people at the tops of escalators, helpfully decked out in red vests and holding the symbol of the ELCA, providing human assistance to supplement the electronic moving screens of information on flat TVs seemingly all over the hotel.
Today is Sunday. Arrangements had been made and large shuttle buses ferried people out to local congregations in Chicago for church services. The hall at Navy Pier is in readiness. Microphones tested. Tables neatly laid out. Huge projection screens tested and ready. It begins tomorrow with an orientation for voting members, a worship service, and the first Plenary Session tomorrow evening.
Us? We’re getting ready too. Goodsoil Central, which is what we are calling Hyatt Columbus Room K&L, is festooned with banners proclaiming gospel rooted in justice. We will be conducting training for the volunteers in there, having prayer services, holding press conferences, volunteer registration. Additionally, we will be providing pastoral care, should that be needed, and there’s a space apart for individual reflection and prayer. We will meet there daily with the voting members who are with us and support what we are trying to do. And, there’s where you’ll find Jerry’s famous trail mix… wonderful stuff.
So, things are in readiness. We have prayed, asked for guidance, asked for sustainment – for ourselves, for you, for the assembly – that this time the Spirit will move enough of the church to recognize God’s truth that LGBT Lutherans are part of the wondrous diversity of God’s creation, full participants in the life of the Body of Christ, and should be welcomed into full participation with God’s people in celebration of the redemption by Christ and the spreading of the good news of the Gospel. It’s going to be quite a week…