Every other year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) meets in a General Assembly to worship, discern, decide, and plan together for the ministry and mission of the church. Ministers and elders from across the country come as commissioners to make decisions that impact the church. Hundreds of observers come, as well, to participate in the worship, speak on particular issues, and observe the happenings of an action packed ten days. All totaled, there were more than two thousand people in attendance at this year’s GA.
This year was my first venture to General Assembly. I had watched from home via the internet livestream broadcast for the better part of the last decade. I had even registered to attend on multiple occasions, but something always got in the way (i.e. sickness, moving, or a baby on the way). I picked a great General Assembly to attend for my first time. This was the least contentious, most gracious, and friendly gathering in recent memory. It had more the air of a massive family reunion than business meeting. The worship services were uplifting and diverse. You got the full sense of the depth and breadth of the PCUSA in all the different voices that were included in each service. The music was amazing from a six hundred voice choir to soloists to various worship bands. The liturgy for each worship service was creative and showcased the best of our tradition and traditions from around the globe. The exhibit hall was filled with representatives of universities, seminaries, camps, organizations, travel companies, artists, and the PCUSA Store book store. Across the week and in venue after venue, I got the true sense of so much that is going right in the PCUSA.
There was business to conduct too. The PCUSA was active on a number of fronts as dozens of reports and resolutions came to the General Assembly for discussion. These ranged from changes to our Book of Order to the way our pension funds are invested to current issues like child separation, climate change, and the inclusion of LGBTGIA individuals. In all the committee meetings, discussions, and debates, I was struck by the great care and passion everybody had, the dedication, and the love for our denomination. Many commissioners and observers gave up almost two weeks to be in St. Louis to faithfully serve the church and that is exactly what they did.
This is not to say the PCUSA is not shedding members or closing churches, but there is a lot to be hopeful about in this denomination too. God is working and moving in the PCUSA. It was on full display in St. Louis. I hope that continues for a long time to come.