LOUISVILLE – “I have never met a commissioner who was coming to the assembly to do harm.”
That’s part of the message that Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), brought May 13 to those who will serve as leaders of committees at the 2014 General Assembly, which will meet June 14-21 in Detroit. Much of the leadership training taking place in Louisville is nuts-and-bolts – parliamentary procedure, report writing, media relations and more – but Parsons urged the leadership of the assembly’s 15 committees to think theologically as well.
Parsons reminded them that the assembly’s theme is “Abound in Hope,” from the 15th chapter of Romans, and that the Presbyterians will be meeting “in a city that’s also seeking hope. There’s never been a more kairos time for a General Assembly to be in a city than for us to be in Detroit.”
He asked the leaders to start their work with the Apostles’ Creed. In the beginning, “God started it,” Parsons said. “No General Assembly voted it into being. God started it. God’s grace started it. God came to us. God created the world. God began the story.”
Remember also, he said, that “on June 22, the sun will come up on God’s earth no matter what you do at General Assembly.”
Here are a few more tips from Parsons, an assembly veteran.
- “We are called to be a church,” and commissioners will come with stories from their congregations, their lives, their communities. Make space to hear the stories. Let people share how their congregations are leaving a footprint in the world.
- Keep watch for the Holy Spirit. “You will sense the time when the spirit really enters into the space.”
- Every committee has extroverts. Make space for the quieter commissioners, whose hands won’t always be in the air but who may have much to contribute.
- The job of committee leaders is “not to figure out all the answers for everybody,” but to help the elected commissioners dig out the answers for themselves.