By the Rev. Anne Schlesinger
My responsibility at the Annual Conference Session (ACS) each year is the pages and marshals. At the Sept. 18, 2018 meeting of the Commission on the Annual Conference Session, one of our tasks was to review the feedback from the June ACS. By and large the feedback was positive, but there were some valid questions about the role of pages and marshals that I’ll be happy to address.
Before I get started, however, I want to say that I am always looking for ways to involve new people in our gatherings, and I encourage all people interested as serving as a page or marshal to contact me. I would especially like to attract non-voting members who live in the Modesto area. If you’re interested in serving, please call me (831-246-0433) or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The more people in our Conference who understand the workings of ACS and see our connection with each other, the better!
That said, here are answers to your questions and comments:
“I felt very uncomfortable with the Marshalls at the doors, keeping people out.”
I am so sorry! It is never our intention to keep people out! Our job is to help people know where they may sit, but everyone is welcome. We have a requirement (as does every annual conference) that people with voice and vote may sit within the bar, while guests and visitors must sit outside the bar. This is part of the Standing Rules of our Conference, and the first item on the agenda every year is the setting of the parameters of the bar. If you were made to feel uncomfortable, I may have been at fault in not making that clear to the marshals during our training session. I will improve that next year. Thanks for your helpful comment.
“I saw non-voting people move from behind the "bar" to sit with a voting member. You need a marshal to stay at the divider to watch people moving through the area.”
…and… “Observer registration and name tags would help the pages and marshals in addition to facilitating networking.”
Good suggestions, but we don’t want to look “militaristic.” We monitor the best we can. We will try to make a change to make Voice/Vote clearer on name badges, but we have not had the ability to create and print name badges on site. We are looking into options, but with more than 1000 active laity and clergy and retirees, registration is already a huge task.
“I do not see any reason or need to separate people by a "bar" – in particular, people who are designated alternates. Besides which, at least in my case, the result was to separate me from my wife, something I object to. In addition, since the primary method of voting was verbal, there is really no good way to be absolutely certain no one outside the bar contributed. You are already depending on the honesty of folks to not participate, so why not extend it to at least designated alternates? And finally, shouldn't designated alternates have some form of identification?”
…and… “I don’t like the emphasis on the bar of conference...seems unnecessary and inhospitable.”
This has been partially answered above; setting the bar is part of our standing rules. If we are not voting, you certainly may sit with your wife in the visitors’ section and then move back to your place within the bar when votes are taken. The Extended Cabinet is looking into the matter of verbal voting. I hope they come up with a workable solution.
“What is a marshal, by definition? Have we had them before? – Terms need to be defined.”
According to the dictionary, a marshal is an “official charged with the arrangement or regulation of ceremonies, parades, etc.” ACS has had marshals in legislative sections for years now, but 2018 was the first year they served in plenary. We needed to add to their scope because of problems in the past. We serve at the pleasure of our Bishop, and our task is to make certain that people who have voice and vote are able to hear, and that those who do not have that privilege by election from their church are seated in the visitors’ section. Please be assured that all are welcome to observe, but only pastors and elected lay delegates may approach the microphones.
“One of the marshals (ushers?) was rude to visitors right after the memorial service.”
I am very sorry. I train pages and marshals before each ACS begins, but perhaps I failed to emphasize sufficiently the need for courtesy. I will be sure to be clearer in the future.
“Noticeable sleeping page on the dais at one point.”
I spoke to her. She was not asleep, but it was very hot under the lights, and I needed to relieve her. Thanks for your patience. Stage Page is a very hard job. The rest of us get to move around!
“Pages were wonderful.”
Thank you! I agree!
Thanks for your comments and suggestions. Please know that the whole Commission works hard to make the Annual Conference Session efficient and businesslike, as well as filled with learning opportunities and Spirit-filled worship. We read all evaluations and take suggestions seriously, but with a large, diverse group such as ours, some suggestions are unfeasible due to budget and other constraints.