At the 2014 Central Texas Annual Conference, there were 22 people elected to serve as the "delegation" to difference conferences in the United Methodist Church. In the image below, the first eight people you see are those who are going to go to the General and Jurisdictional conferences. The next eight people you see are those who will join the previously mentioned eight people only for Jurisdictional conference. The last three people you see are those who were elected as alternates in the event they are need to fill a spot.
It may be worth noting that the order of these elections matter and create a bit of a hierarchy. So if you are the first alternate, then you would of course be called to serve. If you are the second alternate, then two people would have to be unable to complete their duties in order for the second delegate to have full voting rights. And if there is ever a need for the third delegate to be called on to fill a role, then you would have to wonder, "oh man, this group is in trouble." There is a reason that so few football teams sign a backup to the backup-quarterback. When you have to use the third string quarterback that usually is not the best sign.
If you can read quickly enough, you can see that I am the "third quarterback".
This is a very humbling and exciting position and I could not be more aware of the task that lays before the Church. I am keenly grateful to the conference that they would entrust me to represent the conference on any level, even as the "third quarterback". (I would be lying if I said I was not excited by this opportunity and say that I don't pray about messing this up.)
The thing about being the last alternate is that my chances of being a full delegate are slim and this opens the door for me to be as much of a sponge as I can. I sort of feel like a kid who is putting on their parent's shoes and trying to walk in the house without falling over. You know the shoes are not yours and you cannot fill them, but you only hope that one day you will grow into them.
I am sure there will be future posts that speak about this role and some observations, so if this sort of stuff does not interest you, feel free to just overlook them and more on trying to be the change in the world.
In the meantime, here are a few observations from the back up to the back up:
- The back up to the back up is the best position to learn if you are new. It constantly feels like you are in dress rehearsal. And even as everyone knows this, the others still value your thoughts. In what ways am I listening to the voices of those in my life that are the backups to the backups?
- As the back up to the back up it is a position of access. Can you imagine being in a two year process with people that you respect and can listen and learn from them? Can you imagine being given access to other resources and conversations that you would otherwise not be given? This is where I find myself as the back up to the back up. I begin to wonder how can I use this access gracefully and humbly?
Finally, as I sat with the delegation in just a quick meeting, I could only think about how I desire to be like Father Agathon of who it was said lived for three years with a stone in his mouth, until he had learned to keep silence. I doubt that I can learn in two years what it took Father Agathon three, but I am going to try.
Now if only I could find a stone.