In Tampa, Florida, the multitude of delegates to the United Methodist General Conference (that body of elected delegates and bishops who determine the polity and doctrine of the church) began to gather in the morning hours. Some stopped to consume a full breakfast. Some made do with a doughnut and coffee. Some skipped breakfast all together and rushed to begin the day's business.
In a rural town in Virginia, nestled against the Blue Ridge Mountains, a young pastor, just now completing her first year of ministry after ordination, headed toward the local jail. The homeless woman who was her latest project had been arrested.
In the hallway outside the floor of the conference, a layperson from New York and an elder from North Carolina were in deep discussion of the proposal to limit the tenure of a bishop. The layperson sought clarification from the clergy on his views on the matter.
In South Georgia a middle-aged pastor stood on the bank of a river and in an absent-minded manner cast his fishing line into the water. Whether the fish were biting or not was not the point. The goal was the solitude, the quietness, the isolation where he could consider if he wanted to continue with what had become, for him, the disappointment of ministry.
In Tampa, when the delegates were called upon to vote on members of the University Senate, the church's accrediting body for schools, a delegate asked another who Jan Love was? The other replied she was the Dean of the Candler School of Theology. The delegate voted for her.
An Oregon pastor rose early, poured a cup of coffee, accessed the internet and clicked the live stream from the General Conference to watch the proceedings.
In Atlanta a seminary student at the Candler School of Theology headed down the stairs into the stacks in a desperate search for needed documentation for the paper due tomorrow. She had absolute no idea the Dean of her school had just been elected to the University Senate. Nor did she, at this point in heer career, care.
The Oregon pastor returned from pouring her second cup of coffee just in time to hear a delegate from North Georgia making some point to the presiding bishop. The entire recitation was not heard but it did not matter as the bishop ruled the person out of order.
At an Illinois hospital, a pastor jolted upright from his chair when a nurse walked into the room where he'd been keeping vigil with the oldest member of his congregation.
In Peru a missionary opened the doors of the newly established library and prepared for the onslaught of borrowers hungry for what was inside.
Two delegates at the conference became rather agitated in their discussion of whether or not elders of the church should be guaranteed appointments.
A lay pastor in Nebraska walked into work late again hoping his need to be with a couple in his church who had called him about their troubled marriage would be understood by a non-church-going supervisor.
Down in Florida the General Conference adjourned for lunch. In New Jersey a pastor was busy slapping sandwiches together at the shelter.
In Africa, a worn and tired pastor fell onto his bed, a cot, without undressing, utterly exhausted from a day with AIDS victims.
The Tampa delegates listened with rapt attention when the Reverend Lorenza Andrade-Smith was introduced. She shared part of her story of selling all her possessions and living in solidarity with the homeless in the streets of San Antonio.
In Ohio, a pastor and his Pastor-Parish Committee haggled over his compensation for the next year.
Delegates in Tampa ambled back to their hotels. Some stopped at a restaurant to swap stories and gossip. Others eagerly sought their rooms and a night's rest.
Across the globe United Methodists did what they do. In the morning the church will go back to work.