I arrived in St. Louis yesterday and began my work with the 223rd General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today. The PC(USA) is alive and well despite what some may think.
In preparation for my committee assignment, Middle East Issues, Committee 12, I elected to attend the Presbyterians for Peace in the Middle East breakfast. We had a variety of speakers with different viewpoints. These ranged from a Palestinian to the Rabbi of the only Jewish Temple in St. Louis. I have some great stories from the breakfast I can share later but the most poignant moment for me was hearing that the average Palestinian does not talk about Jerusalem or the wall but that they want a stable job so that they can provide for their families, security so they do not fear for their safety, and health care for their children. What we hear in the news is what the governments want, not what the people on the street want. Jews and Arabs are living and working together.
Following breakfast, we had a pre-assembly gathering where we heard from the Presbyterian ministers who were arrested earlier this week while praying for the poor of the steps of US Supreme Court. Following this was perhaps the most moving worship service I have ever experienced. It may have been the fact that I was with close to 1,000 Presbyterians but the orchestra, litanies, songs, and reads probably had something to do with it as well. I was happy to drop a check from FPC Starkville PC(USA) for the bail project in the offering plate. We may be small but we are active in missions and social justice. And Social justice is a theme felt everywhere here.
We had two plenary sessions today; the first was the routine approval of the committees and docket, the second was the election of co-moderators. On the fourth ballot, we elected Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, and ruling elder from Florida by way of Puerto Rico, and Cindy Kohmann, a teaching elder from Boston. There were two teams standing for co-moderator and one team standing for moderator and vice-moderator. All would have been great moderators but God spoke through those assembled.
At the end of the evening plenary, I was able to meet the GA Junkie, one of my twitter friends and a fellow presbynerd. The GA Junkie is a Ph.D. who works in IT at UCLA and travels to General Assemblies of all Presbyterian churches and writes on his blog at blog.gajunkie.com and tweets as @gajunkie.
Tomorrow we worship with various congregations in and around St. Louis, then have a plenary session. Committee meetings start tomorrow night but the real committee work will begin, for me at least, on Monday morning.