BALTIMORE – Now that Big Tent 2019 is over, what will Presbyterians take with them as they go home? What will they carry in their hearts?
What changes will they make in their lives and their ministry?
The co-moderators of the 2019 General Assembly, Cindy Kohlmann and Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, led a “sending out” session following closing worship Aug. 3.
Cintrón-Olivieri said the co-moderators had told the Big Tent planning team they wanted to create a space where people could process what they’d heard and seen and experienced over three intense days. Often at the end of a conference, we go home “all hyped up, worship was wonderful,” but “how do you live this once you are home?” she asked – speaking first in Spanish, next in English.
So the co-moderators instructed the Presbyterians to sit in small groups at round tables, and to start by sharing their answers to these questions with one another:
Where were you born? Where do you live? Where is your heart right now?
For Kohlmann, the answers were: Athens, Greece; Marlborough, Massachusetts; and with the immigrant community.
For Cintrón-Olivieri: San Juan, Puerto Rico; Miami, Florida; and with the people of Puerto Rico.
Where is your heart?
These were some of the answers from people around the tables: With those affected by the opioid epidemic; southside Chicago; Korea; Juarez, Mexico; Appalachia; the Poor People’s Campaign; people detained in cages on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Next up: Kohlmann asked, from all that they’d heard at Big Tent:
“Which question went to your heart most deeply, which question reverberates most deeply, which question is still in your bones?”
Among the possibilities speakers at the conference had raised:
- Are you paying attention?
- Will you be my neighbor?
- Are you being bothered yet?
- Do you really want to be an uncompromising church?
Here’s some of what the Presbyterians reported back after their table discussions (quick summaries, 30 seconds or less per table).
- What happens when we fully submit to Jesus? What does it mean for God to move through us?
- Why is the English version always the best version?
- “We are assuming our new neighbors are hungry and thirsty to be just like us, and that may not be the case. … Who is my neighbor?”
- What do we do when our assumptions are shattered?
- Can we say to the dreamers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “How can we help you make your dream a reality?”
- Will we be ready when God answers our prayers?
- What if we step out of the already and into the not-yet?
Kohlmann said there’s nothing wrong with going home with more questions than answers. “If we come to God with questions, that’s where we see the answers begin to blow,” she said. “The questions are holy ground.”
Three months from now
A final exercise: the co-moderators passed out Big Tent postcards, asking each participant to write on the back “what would you like to remind yourself a few months from now.” Then write your name and address.
The co-moderators collected the postcards.
They’ll stamp them.
And in a few months, they’ll mail them to the authors – a tangible, hands-on reminder of the sacred questions Big Tent continues to ask.