By the exit door from the Registration Hall at the America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, Jose Prakash Sukumaran doesn’t let a single registered delegate pass by without talking to them.
“This is a special gift from the Southern Asia Division,” he tells each one as he hands them a pocket wall hanging with a Taj Mahal motif. Sukumaran, who leads the Northern Kerala Section in southern India, has a small request in return. “Please pray for us,” he says.
On the morning of June 5, 2022, hundreds of delegates are registering and getting their badges, one day before the opening of the 61st General Conference Session. After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a change of venue from Indianapolis, Indiana, church leaders say everything is finally ready.
“It seems unbelievable that the day has finally arrived,” one of them comments. The hybrid session means that not every delegate will be attending in person. Still, those accredited delegates who follow the proceedings online will be able to participate in the business-session discussions and vote the church’s leaders, projects, and initiatives, as well as discuss and approve or reject changes to the Church Manual and other church documents.
Despite the lower turnout of in-person delegates, a buzz of excitement is in the air as they enter the Registration Hall and meet old friends from their own regions and beyond.
After delegates register, they use their phones to capture a QR code which will allow them to participate in the business sessions and to vote electronically. Most of them know what to do, as the Secretariat of the church has provided training in the ElectionBuddy application ahead of time to avoid delays and misunderstandings amid a packed agenda.
“We didn’t want our delegates to first meet ElectionBuddy on Monday morning at GC Session,” GC undersecretary Hensley Moorooven told Adventist News Network in late May as he was training delegates. “We want them to be very familiar with it now.”
Still, a team of supporting staff members takes care of troubleshooting and fixing last-minute glitches, like adapting older cell phones to the newest technology that will allow every accredited delegate to participate in the discussions and vote. “The technology used is 5G,” one of the IT team members explains. “Even though delegates knew about it, there are still some cases where we need to make sure that they have the adequate technology to fully participate.”
Moving past the registration hall, a team of workers takes care of the last details inside the now-empty stadium where the business meetings will take place starting Monday morning, June 6. Beyond the empty seats, side corridors lead to a still empty but ready dining hall, with thousands of chairs and several serving stations already in place.
On the other side of the stadium, several departments, including Communication and Adventist Review Ministries, are already active to guarantee church members and leaders around the world get access to the latest information throughout the six-day event. This year, for the first time, news will be written and shared in several languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, and French. This is in addition to what every world region, or division, usually does to share the news with their church members.
“After the pandemic and all that, it’s such a wonderful thing to get together again,” a delegate from the Southern Asia-Pacific Division comments as he embraces new and old acquaintances. “I am so glad to be here!”
Business meetings will last from Monday until Thursday, June 9. On Friday, world divisions will present their regional reports, but no business session will be held that day, as the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) will have already begun for those delegates following the proceedings from some countries in Asia and the South Pacific. The General Conference Session is scheduled to close on June 11.
For more information on Session, as well as instructions on how to attend and access the livestream and other media, visit gcsession.org/.