Some 750 or so General Synod delegates are gathered in the “well of the House” at the Wisconsin Center. And, being the United Church of Christ, that means 751 different opinions on the conduct of the meeting.
Our delegation spends our gathered time at a long banquet table, roped off from the many visitors sitting in rows outside the well. We carry two items on lanyards around our necks: a credentials packet, and a small voting “response card.” That little piece of plastic and electronics is the conduit between the voting desire of each delegate and the clerks gathering the will of the body in a vote.
The "clicker" has three functional buttons allowing us to vote “1 for yes,” “2 for no,” or “3 for abstain.” A miniature LED screen and a flashing LED shows a delegate when their vote has been registered. The individual clicks are caught on a wireless radio network and relayed to a computer, that tallies them and displays the results to the moderator and assembly.
Sounds simple, in theory. It works beautifully, in concept.
In practice, catching all those clicks is really, really hard.
With cell phones, tablets, audio and video systems, wireless microphones, and I’m guessing the occasional sub-atomic particle scoring a direct hit on a vulnerable circuit … the system is cranky. 750 buttons being clicked in a period of one minute is a blip in the cacophony of radio signals flying all over this concrete box.
Clicks don’t always get caught.
Recalling how many opinions there are in this gathering, the moderators must field a fair amount of criticism and absorb a swell of frustration. Every blip in the system yields a mountain of protest, and it must seem from the podium like a no-win proposition.
There’s an underlying reality that I’ve come to appreciate, though. Each delegate has a passion for this work, and feels the imperative to have their vote recognized. Each of us represents a larger part of our United Church of Christ: an association, a conference, a mission group that works somewhere in the world to express love of God and love of neighbor.
When an individual click is lost, one stream of passion is diverted. It’s frustrating, and feels like an exclusion.
There have not yet been any votes close enough for an uncaught click to make a difference, in a numeric objective sense. But in a people sense, it makes all the difference.
So we are grateful for everything going on backstage at Synod to ensure that all those clicks are caught.
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