When the 147th Annual Diocesan Convention is finally held this Saturday, June 26 after a five-month postponement, it will be the first large in-person diocesan gathering since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. While it will comply with all canonical and state requirements for a diocesan convention, pandemic-related safety precautions will make it quite a different experience than previous conventions. Whether you plan to attend in person as a Deputy, or to simply watch it online, here’s what you need to know.
“We are checking off the boxes we need to,” said John King, Secretary of Convention. King has spent months consulting with Bishop Hughes, Chancellor Diane Sammons, Parliamentarian Carol Harrison-Arnold, and the chairs of the Rules of Order Committee, Allison Garde and John Webb, to ensure this Convention meets all legal and canonical requirements while also protecting the health of participants.
Besides postponing Convention from January until June, which allowed time for many people to be vaccinated and infection rates to begin to subside, the other major changes are the venue, the number of participants, and the length of the agenda.
Instead of a hotel convention center, this Convention will be held outdoors on the grounds of Christ Church, Short Hills, under a tent, with chairs placed 6 feet apart, a setup that will accommodate 125 people. Most of that number will be the 101 deputies who have registered to represent 35 churches, satisfying the requirement that at least 10 churches be represented for a quorum. The remaining spaces will be filled by members of the Bishop’s staff and the Arrangements Committee, as well as the professional live stream technicians. Regretfully, guests cannot attend in-person, but the entire Convention will be live streamed to the diocesan YouTube channel, youtube.com/c/dionewark, for anyone who wishes to view it remotely.
Convention will follow the Journey Forward guidelines. Social distancing will be observed. Because it is an outdoor event, masks are not required except for singing, although they will be encouraged. There will be multiple hand sanitizer stations.
To keep this Convention as brief as possible, the agenda has been trimmed down to the absolute essentials: a service of Holy Eucharist, which will include the Bishop’s address as the homily; annual reports of the governing bodies; elections to diocesan offices; and the annual HR resolution as well as a resolution formally closing Trinity, Cliffside Park. The diocese’s 2021 budget already has been approved by Diocesan Council.
Registration will open at 9 AM, with the Call to Order at 9:30 AM. After some initial business, the Service of Holy Eucharist will begin at 10 AM, followed by the remaining business. Convention will conclude shortly after 12 noon with a brief remembrance and prayer for diocesan leaders who died during 2020. (See the preliminary agenda here [PDF].)
Because of the event’s brevity, no meals will be served, but bottled water and snack bars will be provided.
The theme for this year’s Convention is: Behold, God is making all things new: What new things are we learning? At our 2022 Convention – currently planned for our traditional time in late January, just seven months away – the theme will be: Behold, God is making all things new: What new things can we do? At this Convention, we will indeed be experiencing a new thing for us and applying the many new things we have learned during the past 16 months. But however different the experience, this gathering will be an opportunity for the fellowship and celebration to nourish us for the path ahead, as we continue to absorb the new things we are learning and begin to discern the new things God is calling us to do.