Wearing their mission on their sleeves

This year, Thursday – June 23 – was declared mission T-shirt day at General Assembly. All around the convention center, commissioners, staff and participants sported various tees highlighting the wonderful service agencies and communities they are a part of their own contexts:

Libby ShannonLibby Shannon, director of the office for advocacy and gender justice and associate chaplain of Eckerd College in Tampa Bay Presbytery, explains:

Beginning in the mid-1990s, farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida, gathered to advocate for their rights in the tomato fields of Florida. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a worker-led movement advocating for basic human rights including a path for recourse in instances of violence and sexual harassment, (rectification of) an absence of basic necessities in the field, recourse for those held in modern-day slavery and a raise in pay. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, their Campaign for Fair Food, and Fair Food Program, have been called one of the greatest success stories of our day.

Since the earliest days of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the PC(USA) has stood in solidarity as we seek justice for those who supply our food. In 2001 the PC(USA) joined in pressuring Yum Foods, based in Louisville, and particularly boycotting Taco Bell. Fourteen major food providers – from fast food chains, to grocery stores, to food service providers – have signed on with the Fair Food Program. With the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ organizing efforts, more than 15 slavery rings have been successfully prosecuted by the federal government and thousands of farmworkers have been freed.

FullSizeRenderNathan Byrd, a teaching elder commissioner in San Diego Presbytery, says:

Today I wear the Sleepless San Diego T-shirt. Sleepless is an event organized by the San Diego Rescue Mission. The CEO of the SD Rescue Mission is an elder at the Christ United Presbyterian Church of San Diego – the church I serve as pastor. I wear the shirt because of the connection with this elder and every year I take about 10 people to participate in the event where we sleep outside raising awareness and money for the cause.

Denise Anderson, teaching elder of National Capital Presbytery and newly elected co-moderator of the 222nd General Assembly, proudly wore her “black lives matter” t-shirt with the moderator’s stole. She said:

Black Lives Matter is a way to be the church. And mission is leaving our own comfort & showing up for our neighbor.


(Photo on Twitter by @erincounihan)

A large number of people wore the blue tees of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the denominational organization that “enables congregations and mission partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) to witness to the healing love of Christ through caring for communities adversely affected by crisis and catastrophic event.” It seeks to “bring out of chaos, hope.”

Says, Christa Wallis of First Presbyterian of San Bernardino:

We support PDA because they “show up.” In the hours and days following the Dec. 2 terrorist attack in our city, PDA mobilized volunteers to check on our congregation, our pastor and our community. Two people worshipped with us that Sunday and offered themselves as a presence and support. They prayed with those who came forward after the worship service and have remained in contact with us. We have recently partnered with PDA to offer a resilience workshop for our congregation and community in August.

And, Cindy Kohlmann, of resource presbyter for the presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England, shares:

In the middle of the worst winter in recorded history – the snow didn’t completely melt away until July 14 – the Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England reached out to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance for help. Church roofs were buckling under the weight of over 100 inches of snow, ceilings of fellowship halls were dripping from ice dams, and bills were piling up because of Sunday after Sunday of canceled worship.

PDA stood in the GAP with $300,000, which ensured that our pastors and church employees were paid, heat stayed on, plowing continued, and congregations with vital ministries – but diminished financial resources – received essential support to continue those ministries.

Photo credit: David Maxwell
Photo credit: David Maxwell