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Volunteering at General Conference

April 16, 2012

Tampa, Florida is the location of the 2012 General Conference which brings together delegates from around the world and, just like any good host or hostess, the Florida Hospitality Team of the Florida Conference has been working to provide “a warm welcome” for the arrival of up to 5,000 delegates, visitors and guests.

Church members have been invited to help meet the large need for volunteers to host the event.  Greeters have been recruited for the airport, the convention center and various hotels. These volunteers will be involved with the dissemination of information about theTampaarea and General Conference.  Other volunteers may help with Registration, Lounge Hospitality and Refreshments and the Prayer Ministry.

In addition, volunteers will have the opportunity to view the proceedings on the floor of the Plenary, visit the Prayer Room and Labyrinth that are located onsite, shop at the Cokesbury Bookstore (one of my favorites at Annual Conference!), and to collect information at the General Board booths.

As a Jurisdictional Conference alternate, I will not be voting at General Conference. However, I am very interested in what will be going on in Tampa, so I decided to look into volunteering.  I received a response almost immediately: “Thank you for volunteering to be a part of the Florida Hospitality Team for the 2012 General Conference. There will be several thousand visitors and you will be playing a key role in helping the whole team realize our mission: To offer a gift of warm welcome which provides a setting for the unity and health of the church.

I learned that volunteers have been asked to sign up for four hour shifts. The shifts overlap; for example, those working in the Information Booth can opt to work from7:30 – 11:30 am,11:00 am – 3:00 pm,2:30 – 6:30 pmor6:00 – 10:00 pm.  There is not a limit to the number of days or shifts a volunteer can work.

Volunteers are advised to wear “business casual” clothing with pockets that that will hold a cell phone, credit card, cash and other items since there is no storage location on site.  Everyone is encouraged to wear comfortable shoes; indeed, one of the requirements for serving as a greeter is the ability to stand throughout the entire shift!  Volunteers have also been notified that they should not wear any advocacy pins on clothing.  (I’m hoping that does not include my cheesehead pin.)

There is no reimbursement to volunteers.  They must provide their own transportation and parking.  If they are from out of town, they must make arrangements for a place to stay, and when they are hungry they will need to buy their own food at theFood Courtor a nearby restaurant.

Volunteers are given a name tag that is to be worn at all times.  A reminder that the tag may be required to access the work location is included among the “Standards for General Conference Volunteer and Paid Staff”.  Also included in the Standards are reminders to be prayerful and Christ-like, courteous and responsive to those needing assistance.  The tenth standard includes these words: “Be affirmative instead of negative about what is going on…When you see something needing correction, offer helpful suggestions and supportive critique.”  (Probably not bad advice for any of us, anytime!)

I’m looking forward to learning more about General Conference, to being in the midst of all that will be going on, and to helping others.  I’m hoping it will be fun, with a little work mixed in, and inspirational, with a fair amount of reality mixed in.

— Gail Burgess

One Comment
  1. Wesley White permalink

    It is also possible for folks to join any number of groups looking for volunteers to help get their message out. Some have specific arenas, such as The Rural Fellowship. The two largest ones are coalitions of groups.

    The Renewal and Reform Coalition ( mostly focuses on keeping our doctrines intact – Confessing Movement, Good News, Lifewatch, RENEW Network, Transforming Congregations, and UM Action.

    The Love Your Neighbor or Common Witness Coalition ( mostly focuses on justice around issues of race, gender, global partnerships, peace, stewardship of creation and economic justice. – Methodist Federation for Social Action, Reconciling Congregations Network, Affirmation, The Native American International Caucus of The United Methodist Church (NAICUMC), joined Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) and the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists (NFAAUM)

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