Deputies compete for Louisville disco ball trophy for best-decorated stanchion on house floor

By David Paulsen
Posted Jun 25, 2024

Minnesota Bishop Craig Loya, center, and the diocese’s deputation pose in front of the deputies’ stanchion, which is topped with Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] Charlie Brown is in attendance this week at the 81st General Convention. So is Snoopy.

Even if you didn’t know “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz was from St. Paul, Minnesota, it’s an obvious conclusion to draw when inspecting the Diocese of Minnesota’s decorated stanchion on the floor of the House of Deputies. As is customary at each General Convention, many dioceses’ deputations top their stanchions with a bit of hometown flair – in Minnesota’s case, Charlie Brown and Snoopy plush figures.

Stanchions are the rectangular columns bearing the names of each diocese that are posted next to each deputation’s tables in the House of Deputies. On June 25, after a joint session with the House of Bishops for a presentation of the 28th presiding bishop nominees, the floor opened for all deputies, alternate deputies, bishops and Episcopal communicators to gather as deputations for photos in front of their stanchions.

It also was an opportunity for Episcopal News Service to survey the wide variety of stanchion decorations and toppers displayed by the 109 dioceses and mission areas that are registered at this General Convention.

Posing for photos below Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Minnesota Bishop Craig Loya and his diocese’s deputies were easily recognizable by their matching T-shirts, which referenced another local trademark: Spam. Loya informed ENS that his dioceses also gave Spam gear to the Diocese of Hawaiʻi deputation, because while Hormel Foods is based in Minnesota, Hawaiʻi is the country’s largest consumer of the canned meat product at an estimated 7 million cans annually.

At a stanchion nearby, Bishop Kym Lucas and the Episcopal Church in Colorado deputation were posing with a visiting bishop.

“I’m going to slip in here and see if anybody notices,” Albany Bishop Jeremiah Williamson said. Williamson was a priest in Colorado Springs before being consecrated bishop in Albany, New York, in February 2024.

The Colorado deputation also wore matching T-shirts featuring the local truism “life is better in the mountains.” Their stanchion is decorated with a Colorado Rockies pennant and topped with a stegosaurus – the official dinosaur of Colorado – as well as a small rodent-looking animal that some of the deputies had a hard time identifying.

Alternate Deputy Scott-Michael Pomerenk to the rescue: “A pika.”

Colorado deputation

The Colorado deputation gathers for photos on the floor of the House of Deputies on June 25. Its stanchion is topped with a stegosaurus and a pika and decorated with a Colorado Rockies pennant (and other state paraphernalia). Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Some dioceses are taking their toppers seriously in the hopes of winning the title of best decoration, as judged by the deputation from the host Diocese of Kentucky. On June 23, during the House of Deputies’ opening session, President Ayala Harris announced that she would award a disco ball trophy to the winner.

Louisville has produced 90% of the world’s disco balls, and the city remains the only city in the U.S. still making them, according to Ayala Harris. “Disco will be a theme for this General Convention,” she said.

Could the Diocese of Upper South Carolina be a sleeper choice for best stanchion topper? The jury is out, but the Rev. Jack Hardaway doesn’t think so.

Disco ball trophy

House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris holds up a disco ball trophy June 23 and announces it will be awarded to the best-decorated diocesan stanchion as chosen by the host Diocese of Kentucky’s deputation, as seen on the house’s livestream.

The Upper South Carolina stanchion features a “lion’s den” that plays off the Bible story of Daniel in the lion’s den. When ENS asked about the significance, Hardaway, an Upper South Carolina deputy, clarified that “Daniel” in this case is Bishop Daniel Richards. The stanchion topper was held together with a fair amount of masking tape. All in fun, Hardaway affirmed, and not in contention for the prize.

Hardaway was impressed by other dioceses’ stanchions, particularly Southern Ohio’s. Its sign reads: “Hell is real, but we have ice cream.” Empty Ohio-sourced ice cream containers hang below.

Certain dioceses’ choice of stanchion topper may have been too obvious: The miniature Chicago skyline for the Diocese of Chicago. The Statue of Liberty and an apple atop the Diocese of New York stanchion. The Diocese of Iowa, of course, has its corn.

Animals are popular around the convention hall. A moose tops New Hampshire and a flamingo tops Southwest Florida. The Diocese of Central Gulf Coast’s stanchion features seashells shaped into a cross.

Central Pennsylvania’s makeshift Hersey’s Kiss is adorned with a streamer that reads “The Sweetest Diocese on Earth.” Pittsburgh sports an image of a can of Campbell’s soup. Additional writing clarifies that the soup isn’t from Pittsburgh, but the artist was: Andy Warhol. (Campbell’s is headquartered about 300 miles to the east in Camden, New Jersey.)

And Western Louisiana chose a colorful oil rig, spouting drips of Louisiana cultural icons and sayings. A symbol of the fossil fuel industry could be “a little controversial” at a time when The Episcopal Church has made fighting climate change a priority, one deputy from a nearby diocese told ENS, but he didn’t object too strongly.

A lot is going on with the bouquet atop the Diocese of El Camino Real’s stanchion, reflecting the geographic diversity of the central California diocese, Deputy Jeff Diehl said. A computer mouse and computer chip represent Silicon Valley, strawberries and artichokes are connected to the Salinas Valley, San Luis Obispo wineries are represented by corks and grapes and the butterflies call to mind Santa Cruz, Diehl told ENS.

The diocese has brought the same stanchion topper to the last several meetings of General Convention, and it even took second place in 2018 at the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas, Diehl said. He’s not feeling so confident this year.

“The competition has really increased since then,” he said.

Spokane stanchion

Spokane Deputy Katherine Karr-Cornejo, left, shows off her deputation’s stained-glass stanchion topper, which incorporates window designs from each of the deputies’ congregations. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The tables for the dioceses of Milwaukee, Fond du Lac and Eau Claire feature three similar stanchions. All are topped with the outline of the state of Wisconsin, and each is differentiated only by the respective diocesan borders. The three dioceses’ request to merge into the reunited Diocese of Wisconsin is expected to be approved before the 81st General Convention concludes on June 28.

The Diocese of Spokane’s deputation, meanwhile, created a structure atop its stanchion that incorporates stained-glass designs from each of the Spokane deputies’ home congregations in eastern Washington and the Idaho panhandle.

“We wanted something that would represent our diocese,” but with a personal touch, Katherine Karr-Cornejo explained.

She also would welcome donations of flashlights to help illuminate the stanchion topper from within – especially for the House of Deputies evening sessions later this week, informally known as “GC After Dark.”

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service based in Wisconsin. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.


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