20 Tips for First-Time Commissioners

The GC43 Conversations Facebook group is a great place to ask questions, virtually meet new people, and talk about all things related to General Council. We asked those with one or more GCs under their belts to provide tips to first-time Commissioners. Here is their sage advice.

  1. Prepare ahead of time by fully engaging with the workbook; this allows you to best participate in table groups and other discussions.
  2. Come with an open spirit and heart, and engage in the conversations—even if that’s a challenge.
  3. Listen carefully to the experiences of others, but do not be afraid to ask them to elaborate if their initial words do not fully “paint a picture” for you.
  4. Ask challenging questions.
  5. Strive to understand the reality of others in “being church” under circumstances that are different from your own. The reality of our United Church is different across the country, despite all of us operating under the same manual.
  6. Do not be afraid to introduce yourself to new people. TIP: A fun coffee mug helps start a conversation.
  7. Challenge yourself to eat one meal a day with people you don’t know.
  8. Bring business cards (or something of the sort). You will meet many people and might want to stay in touch with some of them. Having something with your contact information already printed on it will save you from having to write down your information repeatedly.
  9. Pack your manners and plenty of patience—and count to 10 as needed.
  10. Find the secret bathroom that nobody else knows about to avoid lineups. (It will not be secret for long, but enjoy it while you can.)
  11. Do not expect too many votes in the first couple of days. The pace is slow in the beginning, and may be more so at this GC with the new process.
  12. Bring along a simple activity, something like Solitaire, knitting or colouring, that you can do while listening. You will not be the only one doing this. (Editor’s note: science shows that this improves our concentration and memory retention!)
  13. Use social media to keep folks at home up to date—GC really is a big deal!
  14. There are many long days consecutively, so don’t be afraid to take a break. You might need to go for a walk or take a nap to recharge your batteries so you can continue to be present for the rest of the meeting; if so, do it.
  15. Pack or purchase cloth bags to carry all your stuff. Cloth bags made by UCW members will be available at registration.
  16. Bring good shoes and walk whenever you can, if you can. There is a lot of sitting, so at lunch and dinner eat and then go for a stroll by yourself to think, or with other folks to chat. One of the gifts of GC is that you might see friends and colleagues, so a walk to catch up is in order most evenings.
  17. There is a lot of sitting and listening so consider packing a cushion or back support for your chair.
  18. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Bring snacks, cold drinks, tea, and mugs that you can use in the microwave in your room.
  19. Bring an extra pillow and large towel(s), and leave space in your luggage for books and GC swag. Remember that it’s hot outside but cool inside, so a prayer shawl or sweater is a must for packing.
  20. Be prepared for the Spirit to move you and knock you off your feet.

Are there any tips you would like to share that are not on this list? Add your voice to the conversation on the GC43 Conversations Facebook group.