Guest blog from General Assembly
The great Presbyterian reunion that is General Assembly is an opportunity not only to catch up with your favorite Presbyterians, but also to see all the amazing ministry we are doing throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The exhibit hall is ground zero for meet-ups between old friends and an eye-opening look at all the ways God is working through us to build the kin-dom.
With plenary, committee meetings and scheduled meals, exhibitors are used to the ebb and flow of traffic. And in the low times we make the most of exploring the various booths to find the best swag, build personal and professional connections and explore a deeper knowledge of all the ways the PC(USA) is witnessing to and changing the world.
I have attended General Assembly as a YAD (so long ago, there was only one ‘A’), a volunteer and twice as an exhibitor. The hours can be long, but there is nothing like being among a large group of people excited about the ministry and mission we get to share with all the other Presbyterians here at GA. I always meet new friends for life and gain invaluable knowledge about the church and where I might encourage our members to engage and grow in faith and leadership. If you haven’t already picked it up, I am 100 percent in with the PC(USA).
As much as I get out of every GA, the opportunity to see it through not just the eyes of someone new to GA, but someone new to Presbyterianism altogether is life-changing and life-affirming. I had exactly this opportunity on the first full day of the assembly.
I was sitting by myself in our Worship Times booth in the exhibit hall, feeling a little guilty about skipping opening worship, one of my favorite experiences of GA. But I had to get some work done and the fact that I spotted someone I knew and deeply loved every 30 seconds from my booth meant that I needed to spend some time away from people, and finish a few things before another rush of people was around.
As I was sitting there, the maintenance and housekeeping staff were busy emptying garbage cans, cleaning the bathrooms and picking scraps off the floor. Security guards walked up and down aisles in order to make sure everyone and everything left in the hall was safe and secure. As they passed I would throw out a “Hello” or a “Thank you for your work” for all the invisible but vital work they are doing.
A young security guard passed by, and I smiled and threw out a mundane “How are you today?” not expecting more than an equally mundane pleasantry. But what I received was a tumbling out of words: tired, working long hours, but excited to get off work. I figured she was looking forward with her shift in order to spend time with friends or catch a nap, so her next words startled me: “I’m excited to get off work so I can go around and check out all these booths.”
She shared that she had been feeling a bit lost, and hadn’t been on a mission trip for a long while, which clearly was an important connection between her and God. But working in this exhibit hall with these Presbyterians she had never heard of before got her excited about God again.
She said she wants to renew her relationship with God and didn’t realize all the ways God can work in our lives. Asking her age, I encouraged her to check out the Young Adult Volunteer program, which she said was on her list. Her excitement was palpable. Throughout this conversation, I could hear the singing all the way from opening worship as I stood in the exhibit hall and felt like the whole assembly was there with me telling this young woman about why we were excited about the many ways God is working, too. The presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable.
There were tears. There were hugs. Later, I saw her in her street clothes, clutching a few brochures and eager to tell me that she had met some Presbyterians whose church is five minutes away from her house.
She is excited about the Presbyterian Church, and so we should be, too. We are doing exciting things, and one of the best things about spending most of my time in the exhibit hall is learning about those things and connecting people to ministry opportunities they never knew existed before.
I love my job. Using digital tools to share the hope and life of Christ with the world never gets old. But seeing all the ways we are doing church together and sharing allof our work with Presbyterians and with people who haven’t even heard of us before – thatfills me with a unique joy and pride that I get that opportunity to share all of the ways God is working through us. All of us.
MEGAN HANSEN is an ordained elder living near The Woodlands, Texas, with her husband David, an ELCA pastor, her step-daughter, and their three cats. Megan serves on the session at The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church, and is engaged in the youth ministry of WCPC and New Covenant Presbytery. She also works as a digital minister for Worship Times, and loves to talk Jesus in church, online, in coffee shops and pretty much anywhere there is curiosity about God and growing in faith.