Originally the 224th General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was supposed to be held in Baltimore, MD. As the COVID19 pandemic progressed it was decided that the Assembly could not meet in person and so arrangements were made for us to meet online for the first ever entirely virtual General Assembly. In order to allow the Assembly to meet online it was decided that all business that could be moved to the 225th GA (which will happen in 2022) would be. This allowed the Assembly to move from a full 8 days of work to 2 and ½ days. Over those few days much of the work that we did was to enable church agencies and institutions to continue their work uninhibited until the next Assembly. We approved budgets and elected/ confirmed the appointments of many within the church to various positions and committees. Perhaps some of the biggest elections, as well as the biggest celebrations, from the Assembly were the election of Co-Moderators and the election of the Stated Clerk.
Out of 3 pairs of candidates for Co-Moderator we elected Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart (one of my fellow commissioners from the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area) and The Rev. Gregory Bently as Co-Moderators. A historic election as Elona is the first Native American to be elected to the office of Moderator. We also re-elected The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, to a second term as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly. May their service be a blessing to the Presbyterian Church!
Along with the change in meeting space and agenda the theme for the Assembly was changed. “From Lament to Hope” was a more appropriate theme change than we knew when it was originally announced. It focused on Lamentations 5:20-21,
“Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—”
In Bible study, worship, and prayer we explored the move from lament to hope and what that looks like for our denomination, country, and world at this moment. Much of the lament we lifted up centered on COVID19 and its effects. From the illness and death caused by the virus to the loss of jobs, isolation, delayed or drastically changed celebration of life stages (like graduations and weddings), to the impact on the worship, mission, formation, and fellowship of congregations, COVID19 has given us much to lament. Add to that the continued pandemic of white supremacy in our country and the ever growing list of black men, women, and children whose lives have been taken, we could have spent our entire Assembly in lament.
But the message was clear, as Christians we have a sure and certain hope that is found in Jesus our Lord. It is this hope that can and has taken us from lamenting the impact of COVID19 to all the creative ways we have continued to live, worship, work, and spend time with those we love. We also have much to continue lamenting in regards to white supremacy in our nation and church, for it was sadly on display during this very Assembly. But in all this there is hope that God can bring us through, that together we can learn, adapt, and grow into the people and the church God is calling us to be. I leave you with part of the passage from Ephesians Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintron-Olivieri and The Rev. Cindy Kohlmann (Co_Moderators of the 223rd GA) preached from;
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.- Ephesians 3:20-21