Since 2002 I have been attending General Assemblies. Kathy Runyeon taught my polity class at SFTS. I caught the bug and became a G.A. Junkie. In my first call after graduating in 2001 worked for a year and a half to include attending G.A. in my Terms of Call. Since then it has been a non-negotiable. In fact, one congregation rescinded their call when negotiations broke down due to my unwillingness to give up this amazing pilgrimage. So why has this become so important to me?
General Assembly is my Mecca, for all intents and purposes. It is where I am reminded that I am not alone in the work I do as a teaching elder/minister of word and sacrament. It is where I re-discover time and again that Christ’s Church is so much bigger than me and the congregation I serve. It is where I re-unite with kindred spirits who are trying to really discern the radical movements of the Holy Spirit, calling us to a deeper and riskier sense of being in the world for the world. It is a place where I am nourished and strengthened in my call to speak prophetically to the world out love and compassion.
Yes, there is politicking. Yes, there is negotiating that can seem so secular and un-, if not anti-, spiritual. It can be frustrating and even maddening (Monday afternoon is traditionally the afternoon when Robert’s Rules seem to completely break down—but then we find our way through thanks to amazing parliamentarian support). And the truth is, in the middle of all these human hand wringing and politicking (and I am ever more convinced that Church is truly a human endeavor) God calls us to a different way of being than we might intuitively conceive on our own. G.A. is a way of discovering our mutuality. It is a way of connection beyond reason. It is a way of trying to honor the “other,” only to realize we are more alike than we are willing to admit. It is not the only way, and may not be the best way (did I just write that!?). But it is a faithful way that, if we let it, helps us learn more about ourselves as the Church and grow more deeply in our journey with God through Christ.
This week at the 222nd General Assembly I have witnessed—even in the midst of the slog that can often be the huge learning curve of Robert’s Rules of Order and the Presbyterian mantra of “decently and in order” (said with as much smug as one can muster)—the reality that we are passionate about ministry, the love of God, and the prophetic power of seeking to do the right thing for the sake of this world. We may disagree about what that ministry, love, and right thing might be or look like. But, we seem to each, in our own way, give witness to the hope of the vision given to us through Jesus. Thus, the theme of this General Assembly: “The Hope in Our Calling.”
While many are watching committees dealing with issues near and dear to our hearts, the action and vision of our beloved community is being discerned through each of the fourteen committees. For those of you “at home,” be sure to live stream the fun at www.pcusa.org/ga222.