by Sarah Markus, Diocese of Northern California
Today was an AMAZING day. The last two days were all about orientation. It was information overload and all I could do to just keep my mind open to take it all in. It was exhausting and exciting as everything was leading up to the day when the UNCSW started session and the “real” excitement was to begin. The day started early as the various young adult ministries came together to lead morning worship. It was full of energy and vitality and really set the tone for what was to come later in the day for me. Our first big event was meeting Cannon Robertson, followed by a wonderful dialogue with the Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori. I was impressed by the questions my fellow delegates were asking, and amazed at Bishop Katherine’s responses. The way that she was so present with us in the conversation was very humbling and inspiring. Being here at the UNCSW, I can’t help but to think that she is a living example of the theme this year. In the afternoon, we split up to attend different parallel events. I went to two events today, both of which were very enlightening. Before the events began though, I was able to take a tour of the Episcopal Church Center and meet a lot of people working there. The first couple of days here were very technical and I was hoping to understand more about the role of the Episcopal Church specifically. Meeting people that worked in many of what I would deem the social-service roles within the church was exhilarating. Everyone we spoke with was not only excited to meet us, but it was obvious they were passionate about the work they do, and how important it was to be able to do it in the context of Christ.
After the tour, I was able to attend two different parallel events. The first was on promoting positive masculinity. It was wonderful to hear so many people willing to engage in conversations about masculinity in ways that was not putting it down. Being at an event that is here to promote women, I think it is very easy for people to get caught up in the moment and try to encourage women and girls while pointing the finger of blame at men. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to discuss ways to move forward in promoting the positive images we were discussing, and until we move the conversation into action, I fear that we are all just spinning circles. While I left feeling a little saddened by this thought, I also felt empowered- I am here at the UNCSW! If I cannot take these conversations and find ways to put them into action in some form or another, I feel that my time here has been wasted. Yes, it may be enlightening to me, but if I do not share these thoughts, then the advocacy stops and no change will happen. So much talk of advocacy and being around these women (and men!) who are so impassioned with these causes is giving me much hope.
The second workshop I attended was called “Follow The Yellow Brick Road : Lessons in Honesty, Empathy, and Self Care.” I was initially not very excited for this workshop. Having a degree in psychology and working at a crisis line, I feel as though I understand these items and expected the workshop to be fairly redundant. What I found instead was a WONDERFULLY engaging presentation about being honest with yourself and your feelings, and how to connect that with other persons. The presentation was lead by Marion Little and she did such a wonderful job of generating an atmosphere of creativity and engagement. The examples she used were almost as if she were speaking directly to me- goosebumps were definitely present. I am very interested in the social services and in the first couple days, I was worried that those would not be addressed as much due to the focus on technology. The workshop fulfilled that need in me and fed me both in mind and spirit. The event started with a quote that was really moving. In summary, it said that Compassion is being able to dethrone yourself from the center of your own world and put someone else there instead. I think that is a really powerful idea. Even if we try to help others, if we are unable to tear ourselves away from the self, we cannot fully be present with another person. I feel as though it relates to the idea of being created in God’s image. Until we are able to fully recognize Christ in others, we will be unable to forge relationships and create true dialogue with others.
Perhaps one of the best, and also a bit unexpected aspects of today and this entire experience thus far, is the way that the different generations are coming together in dialogue. I was at my diocesan convention 2 years ago and I remember a conversation where an older woman told me that she was tired of fighting for equality and it was now my turn to start. That idea was both exciting and terrifying, as I felt like she was throwing the baton to me and walking off the track. Here, seeing the intergenerational dialogue taking place, it feels as though other generations are passing the baton, but staying with us to show us the way and it is very encouraging. I look forward to the rest of the week with optimism as I begin to find ways to take this information back to my community in a concrete way.