While the delegates to the General Conference do their important work, a constant presence around them are the marshals and pages who help the proceedings to run smoothly. Iowa clergyman Rev. Dan Fernandez is helping to coordinate the marshals and pages this year, and it is a big job, considering that they need to be on site anytime that the delegates are there.
“These are volunteers coming from all over the United States and all over the world. They are deployed according to the day-to-day needs of the plenary and also when they break out in session for the legislative committees,” explains Rev. Fernandez.
“The basic responsibility of the marshal is to be courteous and to be Christ-like to all delegates. And of course it comes with the responsibility of, number one, you have to check the credentials, especially if you are posted at the main plenary hall.” Hopefully making things a little easier for the marshals is the fact that the credentials are color-coded (dark blue for principal delegates, green for all-access, white for visitors, etc.), so they can see a person’s status at a glance.
The role of the pages is a bit different. “For example, this morning, pages had to be here before seven o’ clock. They’re the ones that distribute all the materials needed in the plenary session, especially during the first day of the conference,” says Rev. Fernandez. “And pages, they can be stationed nearby the Bishop’s stage or anywhere near the microphone. Where they are stationed, they have a form with them, in case there is a petition or resolution or amendment. They’re designated runners as well.”
The marshals and pages also play a major role in ensuring that the new forms of technology being used at the conference this year are working for the delegates. “First things first is to check, when they enter in and when they are seated at their table, and be sure that the tablets are working. If not, that’s where the pages or whoever will be stationed in that area will be the one that will get the tech support and make sure that all those tablets are working. That way, we are sure that the votes of the Central Conference delegates are being counted.”
Another piece of tech that they will be helping with is the headsets. “This time they can wear a headset for them to hear all the deliberations that were translated in different languages,” notes Rev. Fernandez. “Even though it’s a new one, and it’s also in a trial basis, I think it’s going to be a good one for the future of the church. We are a global church, and we are high-tech right now, so adopting these new forms will surely facilitate the deliberation and help the Central Conference in their participation in the plenary.”
Taking on all of these responsibilities is tough, but Rev. Fernandez and his team are up to the task. “It’s hard work, but it’s, for me, having served several times, it’s very rewarding,” he says. And with all the running around they have to do, the reverend has traded out his usual dress shoes for something a little more stylish. “One of the advice of the pages and marshals is to wear comfortable shoes. And so I ended up getting Converse Chuck Taylor,” he laughs.
Sporting comfortable shoes and dedicated to their duties, the pages and marshals are always waiting in the wings to help during this General Conference. In a message to his charges, Rev. Fernandez told them, “I know some of you are pastors and lay, but for these two weeks, this will be our ministry, and we will be talking with other people every day, people of different cultures. Remember that Jesus is with us always and let’s show that we are making disciples for the transformation of the world.”