In the weeks that followed our International Convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I had a great many emails and phone calls from SPG members who shared their appreciation for a great convention, asked clarifying questions about bylaw amendments, and one question – that was asked by two people caught me by surprise: What is the purpose of our annual convention? It is a great question and I’m glad it was asked. Here is my response:
Sigma Phi Gamma holds an annual convention for a few reasons but they can summarized under two categories: Business and Fellowship. Here’s what I mean:
Our governance structure requires that we hold an annual business meeting. At this business meeting the following items are presented and/or voted on:
• International Officers and Committee Chairs present information about the work they’ve completed throughout the sorority year
• the annual financial statement is presented
• minutes of the previous convention are accepted or revised
• amendments to the constitution, bylaws, standing rules are considered and voted on
• candidates for International Officer positions are presented and elections are held
• Installation of Officers is held
• International Sponsorships are reported on and in the odd numbered years the upcoming International Sponsorship candidates are presented and voted on.
• From time to time the business meetings include workshops, general membership discussions, or special guests delivering a message or keynote to provide information and inspiration.
Our Founders and the other leaders who came before us worked hard to ensure that we have a governance structure that allows for fair representation – meaning each Chapter has the privilege to send up to two members as voting Delegates to the annual convention. Attending convention as a Delegate, or as a member, provides all of us the opportunity to have a voice in the deliberations, to ask questions, and to offer expertise and ideas. Participating in the business meetings at the annual convention is truly a benefit to membership! All members are encouraged to participate.
Our schedule when gathered together for the annual convention provides opportunities for sight-seeing, sharing of meals, participating in the Memorial Service, shopping, and relaxing. As we know from our Pledge and Creed that one of our main purposes as an organization is friendship.
As women with similar interests in community service and the care of those less fortunate – it is important that we also take the time necessary to visit with one another, share ideas, and grow our friendships. A few ways that we accomplish the fellowship part our convention is to arrive early or stay late for tours arranged by our local hostess Province. We also share meals – the Welcome Breakfast, the Membership Awards Dinner, the Farewell Brunch. Some of the best times for fellowship are after all of the scheduled business meetings, meals, tours, and so forth – when we gather in the lobby to play cards, or when we visit the local restaurant and share a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
I’ve noticed women sitting two-by-two or in small groups or even crowded around a small table with more chairs than really possible – for the purpose of catching up on family news, job promotions, children and grandchildren updates, as well as conversations about the loss of a spouse or child, a job layoff, or an unwelcomed health diagnosis. All of these opportunities for fellowship feed our souls and keep us going. They also inspire us to do more to grow our friendships, increase our service, and extend ourselves in the community where we live and work.
International Convention is the once a year opportunity to gather together and be at our very best as we consider the business and work of our nearly 100 year old organization. It is that once a year time to be in the presence of a Sister that lives 1,000 miles away and this is the only time the two of you are together in one location.
International Convention is also an event that takes a commitment. We must save our money for registration, hotel stay, travel, food, and incidentals. If we work we need to plan time off for a few days or a week depending on the activities we plan to participate in. Sometimes the commitment is easy – when money is easily available, when the kids are all grown, and when our spouses or partners want us to visit with our Sisters. And, other times making the commitment is hard – money is tight, there are children to be cared for, there is limited vacation time available just for yourself – because family vacation time is important too.
What I do know is this … I’ve been on the hardship side of this dilemma – saving money all year to be able to attend International Convention without using my credit card. Deciding if it was okay to do something just for me, leaving my family at home. Deciding if I wanted to bring my husband along with me to convention and share my special Sister time with him. Deciding if I could afford to miss work at all during the summer. All of these are real considerations for each of us to decide individually.
What I have learned during my 14 years as a member of Sigma Phi Gamma is that the ladies who have gone to conventions for decades – they make the sacrifices, they get creative with family vacation time, they attend convention knowing that they will be stronger, smarter, more fulfilled women who return home with a sense of accomplishment and pride in the organization and membership they hold dear.
The Sigma Phi Gamma International Convention is an opportunity. Make it what you will. Take from it what you need to be a better woman and Sister. There is something for everyone and I hope to see each of you next year in Portland, Oregon.
Donna Collins, International Counselor