The Family Reunion, For Good or for Ill

What do PC(USA) General Assembly meetings and heaven have in common? You keep running into people you didn’t expect to see.

General Assembly does have a festival feel to it, sort of like an enormous family reunion. While roaming the halls of the convention center one will certainly hear old friends running into one another unexpectedly. “Hey there Jim. I haven’t seen you since seminary!” “Fancy seeing you Mary! Are you still an elder in Cedar Rapids?” “Frank, you look great, how are your kids these days?” Family reunions can be fun uplifting events.

Many people refer to their congregation as “a family.” Most often, I hear this description as a positive — “I feel at home with my church family.” Or, “At church, I feel like I really belong.” Sometimes even people whose non-church families struggle to welcome them fully use this descriptor.

General Assembly is an opportunity to be church family like none other. Presbyterians from around the nation (and even the world) gather together to spend time with one another, discern the Spirit together, and learn what God is doing in our world.

But there’s another side of the family metaphor that can be quite problematic, and it’s certainly present at General Assembly as well. Families fight. Families bicker and exclude. Families, as a human institution, are flawed. Though the gift of family is a wonderful gift from God, we certainly manage to make them problematic as well.

General Assembly is a time for the family of the PC(USA) to gather and reunite, to worship and to fight (decently and in good order, of course), to learn from one another, to meet new branches of the tree, and to grow together.

So as the 219th meeting of the General Assembly continues, I wonder what sort of reunion will this week turn out to be. Will we listen to each other well? How will we disagree? Will we leave Minneapolis having learned from one another and glimpsed the Spirit at work in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, or will we leave discouraged by our family’s dysfunction?

So, kind readers, how have you experienced the church as family? What are your hopes and fears for this particular family reunion of the PC(USA)?

-Adam J. Copeland, Outlook Blogger


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