Registration is a formal process through which presence is acknowledged. We show up at a booth and sign a bunch of documents that indicate that we have arrived at the right place for the right purpose and have the right kit to do our job.
However there are other things that register.
The taxi driver who took us to our hotel, greeted us with benign silence until we had travelled a block or two, then talked non-stop about the oppression of immigrants in the USA. She also commented that she had been a Sabbath keeper for 27 years and an Adventist for some of the time, but felt used and alienated. We just listened, it registered that there are a lot of hurting people in this world.
It registers that people of San Antonio have been most welcoming. Apart from banners on the lamp posts, the sometimes bemused Sales Assistants are conscious of a deluge of foreigners and do their best to offer a Texan welcome. The waitress at Denny's described herself as 'awesome' which is not quite a phrase we use in British understatement, she got the point when I suggested that if I felt 'awesome' on the day, she probably would prefer not to know 🙂 Beyond the fun of cultural banter there are civic greeters on every street corner helping people – register where they are – which is a nice touch.
The Baptists have a booth at the entrance of the Conference center in which they offer delegates a welcome bottle of cool water. Very refreshing,On t thought I.
It registered when I see one of our number trying to thrust a thick book into the hands of one of those delightful ladies who had volunteered her time on a street corner to offer us hospitality. Charming, thought I.
En-route to the registration booth a stranger decided that she should pray with me. Curiously, I declined, though I hope she did not find me rude. It registered that we do not have a presumptive right to orchestrate the Almighty onto our agenda without prior relationship.
Meeting friends is always refreshing, indeed when in a strange place it registers just how important friendship is. It registers that those who we presume to be colleagues and acquaintances in a distant kind of way, turn out to be more friendly than we imagined.
On registration we are given a goody bag full of 'gubbins'! I confess that most of this stuff will not make it back home, neither does it pass the ruthlessness of my 'do I need this?' test. It registers that we are dealing with a market place trying to buy recognition, influence and donations. The exhibition halls were not ready for business and while I look forward to experiencing creativity and passion, I am less comfortable with commercialisation. Some of it leaves a pit in my stomach.
The dining room is vast, with the intent of feeding 5000. It registers what a miracle that really was. Far from engaging a hand full of disciples to distribute the loaves (sorry no fishes) there is a platoon of servers, all charming in their way. 'Are you hungry?' they ask. 'Do I look hungry?' I ask.
Ah well, it registers that Haystacks are not so bad, particularly if the conversation is good.
History has never been high on my register, less still that of Texas. However the battle of the Alamo (a fortified mission station in San Antonio) is another of those stories where a few determined men triumph against the overwhelming odds to alter the course of history. It registered again the 'might and right' are not necessarily determined by numbers or the power of the gun.
Victor Pilmoor is the Treasurer of the British Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and a delegate at the 60th General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas.