From his sickbed, would-be delegate welcomed webcast of General Synod
Written by Phil Porter
September 2003

I have a confession to make. I went to bed with most of General Synod. Now hold on! Before you dash off an outraged e-mail to the editor, let me explain.

I was supposed to be in Minneapolis for General Synod 24. Though I have been to Synod several times, I have never been a delegate. But now, as a member of the Executive Council and as a member of Local Church Ministries' board of directors, this would have been my first time to sit at one of those long tables with my voting card, thrusting my arm in the air at appropriate moments and rushing to microphone one, two, three, four, five or six with appropriate comments when I felt sufficiently moved.

About two weeks before the event, however, pain and numbness shot through my right hip and leg. Sciatica! I couldn't stand for more than a minute. Neither could I sit. Acch! I hoped for a miracle cure, but the day came that I had to "call in sick."

It was news to me that plenary sessions would be simulcast on the UCC website. I had never watched live on my computer. I wasn't even sure I had the right software. But there I was, lying in bed in California my laptop propped on a pillow on my knees, the front of the computer wedged against my ribcage.

At the appropriate time, I searched my way to ucc.org, clicked on the little "live broadcast" icon, and with barely a buzz and a whir, there was my friend Elaine Kirkland conducting the Coalition Choir in the opening worship service. Eureka!

The picture was small, the images a little jerky and the sound quality marginal but I was captivated. I couldn't quite believe it. I thought maybe I would tune in for a bit of worship here, a floor debate there, but before I knew it I was checking the daily schedule to catch as much as I could. It made me long to be there but it also brought me right into the middle of things.

Now I may be a Synod "geek," but even my partner who is new to the UCC was interested and impressed by the breadth and depth of the social issues that were being debated.

I was moved, enlightened and entertained. By the end when everyone was getting a little loose and goofy with fatigue, I was feeling the same way. But my heart was full with the sense of faithful commitment that filled that gathering. I was proud to be a "person of the comma!"

And thanks to the folks in the national office who made this technology work for all of us!

Phil Porter is minister of liturgical arts at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, Calif., and co-director of Body Wisdom, Inc. Focus on Faith is a readerwritten column to help others grow in their faith. We welcome submissions from clergy and laity.
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