A banner boldly calling all to “Abound in Hope,” the theme for this year’s denominational gathering, welcomes visitors as they enter the Exhibit Hall of the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
While organizers did their best to make the 148,000 square-foot Oakland Hall representative of the theme, Exhibit Hall Manager Andrew Yeager-Buckley said they hope it also abounds with functionality, information and accessibility.
“What we want is to give visitors a taste of all the resources and opportunities available to them through the denomination and its affiliated agencies,” said Yeager-Buckley, who characterized the hall as a “one-stop shop.”
Some 100-plus booths are grouped in areas of related interest. One area displays booths from mission-minded agencies while another offers tons of information on the eight schools affiliated with the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities. There are designated areas for booths from the Office of General Assembly, the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the Board of Pensions.
Visitors will also find 12 booths offering hand-made crafts and wares in the Global Marketplace, from Rahab’s Rope and its jewelry and silks scarves to Pal Craftaid and its hand-carved nativities and woven purses. Hundreds of books on a wide array of theological topics are available for perusal and purchase in the Thoughtful Christian Bookstore.
To help visitors navigate their way through the labyrinth – yes, there is one of those available as well – of booths and stations, a digital guide to the Exhibit Hall is available in the Guidebook app for the 221st General Assembly.
“The app is new this year and is an incredibly useful tool,” said Yeager-Buckley. “There is an interactive list of exhibitors that will tell you about each booth and show you where it is located in the hall.”
In the two weeks the Guidebook app has been available, 3,624 people have downloaded it, according to Yeager-Buckley.
To make things even easier, the Exhibit Hall is equipped with Wi-Fi.
In addition to information, most of the booths offer “freebies,” everything from pens and rulers to coin and cell phone holders.
One of the more popular freebies is the collection of colorful, hand-knitted scarves handed out at the More Light Presbyterians table. “Presbyterians brothers and sisters from across the country have been knitting and praying their way to General Assembly in hopes of gaining full acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children of God,” said More Light representative Madeline Jervis.
Exhibit hall hours are Saturday, June 14, 12:30 – 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, June15, 1:30 – 7:30 p.m.; Monday, June 16, 9:00 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, June 17, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and Wednesday, June 18, 9:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
by Bob Sloan