Last week I spent eight days at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. The General Convention is a gathering of Episcopal leaders from every state in the United States, plus Haiti, Ecuador, Europe, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and several other countries. It is held every three years and it is equal parts budget setting, policy and practice setting, and a giant “family” reunion. This year 6,000 people gathered in Indianapolis and our Living Compass team was there the entire time to introduce people to the wide range of faith and wellness resources we have to offer.
Being at General Convention was one of the most uplifting and energizing experiences I have had in a long time. During the eight days I was there I spoke with close to a thousand people from a wide variety of settings. I talked with people from the country of Haiti, a small fishing village in Alaska, France, New York City, Bean Blossom, Indiana, the Diocese of Navajoland and many others. Each of these people were coming to find out about Living Compass, but before I would share any information with them I always asked them to tell me about their local congregation or ministry context, and to tell me about what they do there. You see, I love to listen to people’s stories. And so, one by one, I heard first hand stories of people making a difference by bringing hope and healing to people who need it in their part of the world.
During my time at General Convention, my only regret, was that I was not able to enjoy one of my favorite summer time passions: cycling. Not only was I not able to ride my bike for eight days, but I was so busy that I was unable to watch the biggest annual event in cycling, the Tour de France. As I write this column though, all is well again. I am back in Wisconsin, again getting long rides in on my bike, and watching nightly highlights of the Tour de France.
If you have never watched the Tour, I encourage you to do so before it ends this coming Sunday, July 22nd. If you watch, even for just a few minutes, you will witness a fascinating strategic phenomenon in bike racing known as the peloton. The peloton (from French, meaning “little ball” or “platoon”) is the large pack of riders who ride together to save energy by riding extremely close, usually behind, each other. Riders take turns “pulling” in the front of the peloton to reduce the efforts for others. The reduction in drag experienced by the racers, and therefore the effort needed is dramatic; in a large group it can be as much as 40%. Another way of saying this is that riding a bike solo, away from a pack of other riders, can require 30%-50% more effort.
As I reflect on both biking and my uplifting time at General Convention last week, I realize that while I was unable to ride my bike while there, I was indeed riding in a peloton. Each of us took turns drafting off each other’s stories of where and how the Spirit is making a difference in our lives. It was a powerful reminder that while there are times when we need to ride solo in life, our wholeness and wellness is most clearly nurtured, sustained, and inspired in community.
Think about the most important pelotons in your life right now. Are you faithful in your commitment to keep those pelotons strong? Do you take your turn “pulling” at the front of the group? Are you comfortable acknowledging your need to ride in a peloton, or do you do too much solo riding in your life? Pelotons come in many forms and they are all important: families, partners, friends, faith communities, book groups, work teams, sports teams, retirement communities, schools, neighborhoods, and yes, even national church conventions of 6,000 people.
I’m already looking forward to 2015 in Salt Lake City when the General Convention/Episcopal Peloton rides again! In the meantime, may we all be uplifted by the smaller, local pelotons we are blessed to ride in every day.