“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”    Romans 15:13

 
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Welcome to my “GA Journal!”  I arrived in Detroit this morning after a two-day drive from Kansas City. After checking into my hotel, I made my way to the Cobo Conference Center where the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA is being held.   For the first time, I am serving as a commissioner along with six other commissioners from Heartland Presbytery.  In total, there are 656 voting commissioners from 172 presbyteries around the country, plus 172 Young Adult Advisory Delegates (YAADs), 25 theological advisory delegates,  8 missionary advisory delegates and 15 ecumenical advisory delegates.  In addition, there are hundreds of other attendees — visitors, PCUSA staff and exhibitors.

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The Assembly kicked off this morning with a rousing service of worship with about 2,500 people.   Outgoing moderator Rev. Neal Presa preached on the texts of Luke 24:28-51 and Romans 15:1-6, 13.  Romans  15:13 is the theme of this General Assembly.

After lunch, I explored the exhibit hall which has dozens of booths for PCUSA organizations, advocacy groups, missionary organizations, seminaries, vendors and others.   As I made my way, I delighted in seeing Veeda Javaid from the Presbyerian Education Board of Pakistan, whom we support and hosted at BRPC last fall.

The official business of the Assembly has begun.  Our host presbytery, 20140614_150617 (1)the presbytery of Detroit, opened the assembly with a welcome and stirring video about the state of the city and the call for hope.  “Little did we know how appropriate the GA theme from Romans 15:13, picked several years ago, would be for our city today,”  said a Detroit pastor of the past 30 years.    He then highlighted the importance of racial justice for the city and for our nation.  He recalled how Dr. King gave the first rendition of his “I have a Dream” speech here in this same Cobo Conference Center on June 23, 1963.   That struck me since that was the day I was born.

Then a moment of great hilarity ensued as members of the national staff of the PCUSA were introduced in a video in which they lip-synced a song about GA sung to the tune from “Les Miserables.”  You can watch it on YouTube; it’s a hoot!

Over the course of the next seven days, I will be reporting on my experiences here at GA and of the broader church.  I’ll reflect on the business of the assembly, our times of worship, encounters with other Presbyterians from around the country, and my encounters in the city of Detroit.  I welcome your comments and questions in the comment space below as I go through the week.  Perhaps you’re wondering about something, or maybe you want to express a view about any business before the assembly.   I welcome all your comments!

A last word of grace.   As some know, my mom passed away on Tuesday of this week, which of course is quite fresh upon my heart.   I ate lunch today with some other commissioners from Heartland Presbytery (including Rev. Sandra Stogsdill of 1st Presbyterian Lee’s Summit).   Another commissioner at our table was from Newark, NJ.   I said to her, “Oh, I grew up for a time in Basking Ridge (which is 30 miles from Newark).  My dad,”  I added, “was the pastor at Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church.”   At that, Sandra put her sandwich down and said “Really?!  I did my field study as a seminarian for 9 months at your dad’s church the year before he retired!   I remember your mom.   I had lunch with your parents in their home.  This is strange, but I remember — and this was 20 years ago — how your mom commented on my sweater which had this special embroidery.  She was really nice.”

While I have known Sandra through our Presbytery for a few years, I never knew that she had served at my dad’s church.  And of course I had no idea that she had ever met my mother.  It was a gentle grace as I begin my time at this gathering of our national church, and it was a personal experience of how we are joined in the body of Christ.

 

 

 

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