Shall we gather at the Publix …

I found a way to save the UMC goo-gobs of money. Don’t bother with renting out a huge convention center to hold General Conference – just send everyone to the grocery store.

About a five-minute walk from the Tampa Convention Center is a Publix, the only grocery in the area. And since we all started to arrive in the run-up to General Conference, that Publix might as well be United Methodist International Headquarters. I’ve been in Tampa 36 hours and have already been there three times. Hey, two weeks on the road and you’re going to need some supplies.

So every aisle you turn down, you see pals from other general agencies or annual conferences. Maybe a throng of African delegates. Perhaps a bishop or two. Even if you don’t know them, you see the telltale GC2012 nametag. We all recognize we’re in the same group; we smile and wave and say hi.

And yet, not long from now, some of the same folks being cordial to each other in the produce section will find themselves on opposite spectrums of some pretty contentious debates. We’re supposed to observe Holy Conferencing, and I hope that promise stays intact after passions and tensions run high.

Maybe it would be easier to find common ground not on the plenary floor but at the grocery store. After all, we have different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs, but we are all united by one truth.

None of us can figure out where the plastic utensils are.

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