PORTLAND, Ore.—South Carolina deacon the Rev. Elizabeth Murray is a first-time page at General Conference 2016, and there are times when the work becomes surreal.
As she tweeted May 13, “@BishopSallyDyck preached one of the most prophetic sermons I've ever heard this morning at #umcgc & then I delivered her coffee. #pagelife."
Murray is one of 100 pages this year from all over the globe. Pages serve as runners and helpers during the denominational gathering, tasked with doing everything from making copies to delivering notes to bringing people coffee. And all the while, the business and the beauty of the global church are going on in the background, inspiring and humbling her.
Murray said her experience has been wonderful so far.
“I’ve really enjoyed being a helper,” she said. “As Christians, we are called to serve one another, and I’m fortunate to serve in this process.”
Murray’s call is to Hispanic ministry. She said being able to see the multiethnic, global church through a new lens has helped flesh out the way she sees her ministry passion.
General Conference draws people from all over the United States and the world beyond, particularly Africa and the Philippines. Many do not speak English as a first language — or at all. While she hasn’t yet experienced any language barriers, Murray said she knows many non-native English speakers struggle to understand the intricacies of legislation and voting, which can be extremely complex.
“Knowing we’re in an English-dominant place right now, it can be hard for our brothers and sisters who do not speak the language,” Murray said. “General Conference can be very complicated, and if you’re not a native English speaker, I’m impressed how you’re able to keep up. It’s so much more complicated than I ever thought.”
Day in the life
Pages have two shifts, morning (7 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and afternoon (1-6:30 p.m.).
“Last week, we were in the legislative committees. We were appointed to one committee a day, and we got to run notes, make copies and deliver notes,” Murray said.
This week, they are in plenary sessions full-time.
“We work at different microphones, run notes back and forth from the tables, help people with issues of technology, run notes from the General Conference Secretary’s office to the plenary session, give notes to bishops, to delegates and they’re all asking different questions,” Murray said. “I’ve even delivered coffee!”
She said she knew what she would be doing ahead of time, but the magnitude and international flair of General Conference was a big surprise, and particularly exciting in the worship experiences.
Every day begins with worship led by a different bishop and with a different theme. Murray said the creative, global and “very thoughtful” daily service has been more than impressive.
Overall, it’s been an educational and uplifting experience, Murray said.
“I have learned a lot about how General Conference functions and the inner workings of The United Methodist Church,” she said.
See a video reflection by Murray on her #pagelife experience: https://youtu.be/_AH0FrZDNn0
Jessica Brodie is editor of the South Carolina Advocate, newspaper of the South Carolina Conference.
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