General Assembly: to go, or not to go

I’ve gone back and forth about whether to attend General Assembly this year.

At first, I was planning to attend in person. I have enough money in my professional expenses budget. I was looking forward to those informal interpersonal interactions that happen at conferences. On the other hand, it looks like it’s going to be expensive; I’m estimating a low-end cost of $2500 for five days, and I’m not sure that’s the best use of my congregation’s limited financial resources. I also admit that I’m still COVID-scared, and the thought of being cooped up with a couple thousand other people doesn’t sound good to me.

Of course I could attend General Assembly online. But the agony of sitting for hours in front of my computer screen for what promises to be a fairly low-quality experience does not seem appealing. Especially since it will be almost impossible to have any of the informal interactions that make in-person conferences interesting.

I feel like I should attend, one way or the other, just to be part of the business meeting where we will vote on the proposed revision to Article II. But at this point, it looks to me as though those revisions are going to pass regardless of what I vote. And my congregation has shown little or no interest in the Article II revisions, so my vote would only represent my personal opinion, not their collective opinion.

Probably my strongest feeling around General Assembly this year is cynicism. Which surprises me. But I haven’t been feeling good about the Article II revision process. I felt uninspired by both the draft versions I saw; and my congregation is still focused on recovering from the pandemic, with no time to spare for denominational politics. I don’t want to feel cynical. So my decision on whether to attend General Assembly will probably come down to this: which course of action will make me feel least cynical? I’ll let you know how that turns out….

Update: The board of my congregation would like me to attend, in order to vote on the proposed Article II revisions. Now I have to decide if I attend in person, or online.

2 thoughts on “General Assembly: to go, or not to go”

  1. If they follow the same measures used at last year’s GA in Portland, the COVID risks should be minimal.

    Masks were required for all indoor in-person activities.

    Persons attending in-person had to show proof of vaccination or a very recent negative COVID test before being allowed to attend (there was a mobile testing site right next to the Oregon Convention Center). One’s COVID vaccination card (original or copy) or a photograph of the COVID vaccination card was sufficient documentation. And the various “vaccine passport” smartphone apps also worked as documentation (Louisiana’s “LA Wallet” app is what I used in Portland).

    The processes used in the plenary sessions were designed so on-site and remote attendees were treated the same.

    All voting was done online using one’s smartphone, computer, or other online device (same process for all participants).

    The pro and con microphones were set up so everyone (on-site and remote) sat at a desk and appeared to the plenary via webcam (the on-site persons had a separate area where they could speak on camera without a mask safely just like the folks speaking at home).

    We didn’t do a lot of after-hours evening socializing with other GA folks. We did visit with people during the daytime events and during breaks. In the evenings, we met up with our kids who live in Portland and had dinner with them. We also spent time with them before and after GA in Portland. And they joined us for the Sunday morning worship service that was open to the public.

    The number of on-site COVID cases in Portland were very few — around a dozen or so. That’s very small for a large in-person gathering.

  2. Steve, that’s very reassuring. Mind you, my COVID fears are not rational at this point…probably partly a result of 2+ years of massive overwork during lockdown.

    Anyway, my latest thinking is to ask my congregation if they want me to attend General Assembly, as it’s really their money.

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