We came to Florida on a two-day road trip last week with some dear friends for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly, a biannual meeting of my husband’s entire denomination.
Denominational assemblies are giant conventions. Instead of business people, dentists, or people in Star Wars costumes, you have a motley crew of church characters — pastors, professors, youth groups, seminary students, and church people of all kinds, races, and ages. There are workshops on social media, caring for veterans in your congregation, raising money, and liturgical dance. There have been good speakers and big, big worship services.
My laryngitis had seemed to heal, but after a week of talking it’s returned (yes Mom, I have a doctor’s appointment for when we get home). It’s awkward to keep pointing at my throat every time I see someone I know. And even harder to not be able to talk and connect with people. I actually know quite a few folks from my divinity school days and have been disappointed that all we can really do it hug and make sad faces, although it’s fun to listen to them talk with Adam. Some have been very good at patiently interpreting my gestures and reading things I type on my iPhone. Still, it feels as though there is a clear plastic sheet between me and all these people I care about.
Attending large assemblies, especially for an introvert like me, is like running a marathon. The convention center is as big as an airport and you walk around and up and down… if you’re like my husband and counting steps, you easily get in your 10,000. There are lots of new ideas, interesting people, books for sale, and conversations to enjoy (if you can talk, anyway). It’s easy to get overloaded.
To hold onto my sanity, I’ve been alternating days between Assembly and the solitude of our hotel. It’s a pretty good deal. To give you a sense of the contrast –
General Assembly (evening worship, with thousands of people in attendance):
Both are good stuff.
Meanwhile, I’ve been rereading Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence, about her journey toward a life with as much silence as possible, bringing her to buy a decrepit shepherd’s house in the empty moors of northwest England. She also chronicles the cultural history of silence – from the spiritual athletes of both Western and Eastern persuasions, to solo seafarers and other solo explorers of extreme wilderness, to fairy tales and myths, from the desert to the Arctic.
It’s strange, ironic, and somehow very satisfying to contemplate all this in the midst of both General Assembly and an Orlando hotel complex. And while struggling with laryngitis.