Whether you’re looking for inspiration, souvenirs or a massage, you’ll find it in the Exhibit Hall. Some 225 exhibitors are promoting various causes and missions, selling everything from chalices to tote bags, and offering freebies from magnets to lollipops to Internet hookups.
Being an exhibitor is a great way to greet people and to get a feel for what’s happening in Convention’s meetings, said Mary Wilson of the Diocese of Southwest Florida, coordinator of the Leadership Program for Musicians. “There’s just an excitement to being part of such a wonderful gathering.”
Michael Podesta of Rocky Mount, N.C., has sold his calligraphy at conventions since 1973. “The people are very enthusiastic, and they’ve always shown me the warmest welcome,” he said. “I’d almost come for the compliments.”
“Many of my texts are from the prayer book, and so it’s a natural connection here,” he noted. Unlike at some secular shows, he said, at Convention “people are very knowledgeable about the liturgical aspect of the symbolism I employ.”
Many exhibits serve a dual purpose. They sell handicrafts or books, but they also seek to educate visitors about particular ministries those sales support.
The exhibit for Cuttington University College in Liberia, founded by the Episcopal Church in 1889, seeks to educate people about the college and secure scholarship funds for students in a country where civil war has made tuition ($510 per semester) hard to come by and attending school challenging. President Henrique Tokpa is trying to keep tabs on the college’s welfare while attending Convention.
Cuttington’s exhibit sells handicrafts from a Liberian village, one of several student service-learning projects halted by the war, Tokpa said. Most of the villagers are in refugee camps, he said. But he looks toward restarting the programs. “We have to be involved in the community rebuilding,” he said.
For the thirsty and sleepy, Episcopal Relief and Development offers free samples of Bishops Blend coffee, which churches can buy. The coffee is free-trade, meaning its growers receive a fair wage; shade-grown, making it environmentally responsible; and provides 15 percent of sales to support ERD’s programs, said Canon Joyce Hogg, ERD director of networks and special projects.
For those desiring a convention-specific souvenir, the Episcopal Book/Resource Center offers mugs, frisbees, travel mugs and notebooks with the theme “Engage God’s Mission.”
Finally, those sore of foot and stiff of neck can enjoy a free massage at the National Episcopal Health Ministries booth. It’s a service, exhibitors said, that becomes increasingly popular as Convention progresses.