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GA News: Two men remember two historic reunions

On the 25th anniversary of the reunion of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (northern stream) and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (southern stream), people who were there look back.

 SAN JOSE — The Revs. Paul Masquelier and Dean Lewis enjoy reunions.

 They’ve both experienced a pair of them — Presbyterian style.

 The two pastors, both in attendance at this week’s 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), each attended other significant Presbyterian reunions — 1958 in Pittsburgh and 1983 in Atlanta.

 Fifty years ago, Masquelier, now 69, was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. It was the year the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPNA) and the larger Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) united in Pittsburgh. “In my free time I would slip over to General Assembly,” he said. “I had never seen so many Presbyterians in one place.”

 Masquelier hailed from McDonald, Pa., a town of 3,000 that was home to four UPNA churches. He remembers “a real sense of fulfillment” that pervaded that first reunion after “years of separation.” Lewis, who’s 83, remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., addressing the Assembly — and that the moderators’ crosses from the two uniting streams of Presbyterianism were welded into one.

 “We inherited some very fine folk” from the UPNA, he said. “I don’t remember things being as political as they were in 1983. But there was some anxiety,” he said, on the part of the much smaller UPNA, concentrated in western Pennsylvania.

 By the time of the 1983 reunion that formed the current PC(USA), Lewis was director of the Council on Church and Society and part of the new team redesigning the mission program of the current PC(USA). Masquelier was executive presbyter of San Jose Presbytery.

 “There was a long procession, a coming-together of the two denominations” in Atlanta, said Masquelier. “When it came time to sing, I couldn’t sing at all because I was so choked up.”

 The spirit at that second reunion was “euphoric, glorious and unhinged from reality,” Lewis said. Still, he remembers feeling at the time that the marriage would take a while to blossom, “because I knew how different the cultures were.”

“I knew it would take some time,” he said, “and we’re still working on it.”