Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Political Conventions and Church Assemblies

Today we've watched the Republicans try to decide what to do about their convention.  To be fair, I'd have made similar decisions; with Saturday's forecast, it made sense to delay the convention.  It was difficult not to smile at the outcome.  In this article, Dana Milbank notes:  "Completing the cosmic joke, the weather would have been fine for a convention in Tampa on Monday: gusty, with intermittent showers and sun. But minutes before the 2 p.m. start of the abbreviated session at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the wind and rain picked up and the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Tampa’s Hillsborough County. By the time the brief session ended, the sun had returned."

Some of us might wonder the Republicans decided to hold their convention in a coastal city at the height of hurricane season. But recent years have shown us that few cities are safe from weather surprises.

The larger issue: why have a convention at all? We know who the nominee will be. What is the point? Why spend all this money?

I’ve had similar thoughts about church assemblies, both at the synod and the national level. Some years, clearly we need to meet. We have elections to complete, decisions about who will provide leadership. Some denominations need to vote on how to spend the money that the Church collects. Some denominations meet to train members in various issues. Some denominations need to vote on social issues periodically.

But in this age of technology, do we need to meet in person? Do we need to spend the money and stress the various environments by descending on a city?

I can only vaguely imagine how much the political assemblies are costing. I shudder to think. When I go to Synod Assembly, it costs several hundred dollars for the hotel room, and then there’s the registration fee of over $100. I spend even more on food. And there’s the cost of travel: gasoline and wear and tear on the car. If we calculate the time off that I have to take, the cost continues to rise.

I understand that it’s good to assemble. I understand that we can network and get good ideas and do trouble shooting—I understand that some of us need to do that in person. But the harder question: is it really worth the cost?

On the national level, the stakes rise. The costs go up, the travel takes more time, some of us must take more time off.

We might argue that the national assemblies only take place every few years. But the question still remains. Is it worth it?

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