The worship planning team for the 225th General Assembly has completed its list of worship leaders for this summer’s hybrid gathering, pairing preachers with highlighted Scripture and the GA225 theme of “From Lament to Hope.”
GA225 will open and close with worship, and will include a special Juneteenth observance. Morning services will begin each Assembly day from July 5-9. The Rev. Gregory Bentley, GA 224 Co-Moderator, will preach at opening worship on June 18.
The complete list of leaders, highlighted Scripture and working titles follows:
- J. Herbert Nelson, II; Isaiah 6:1-8; “Juneteenth”
- Gregory Bentley; Micah 6:1-8; “From Religiosity to Righteousness”
- Kate Murphy of The Grove Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, North Carolina; Acts: 9: 1-9; “The Good News of Damascus”
- Mark Lomax of First Afrikan Church, Lithonia, Georgia; Jeremiah 29: 3-9; “Seek the Welfare of the Community”
- Yenny Delgado, psychologist, theologian, and a Ph.D. in Sciences of Religious student, Washington D.C.; Luke 4:18; “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…”
- Jennifer Saperstein of Northside Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Luke 15: 11-32; “The Story of the Prodigal Son”
- Karen Georgia A. Thompson, Co-Executive for Global Ministries, United Church of Christ; Revelation 21:1-6; “A New Normal” (Ecumenical Service)
Access the GA225 docket, with the worship schedule, is here.
Inspired by the GA225 theme, the worship sermons will acknowledge the difficult times the church and nation are experiencing while raising up reasons for hope, what one preacher describes as “a new life of joy” in a summary document of the planned sermons.
Three sermon descriptions reference the “Good News”; all connect to justice and healing through what one preacher calls “acts of compassion in the public square.”
“How will we find hope amid despair?” one description asks. “And what will it take for us to hear ‘See, I am making all things new’? How do we find our way to the joy of this newness?”
The planning team includes teaching elders and ruling elders from PC(USA) congregations, as well as national church leaders and staff. Ruth T. West, Shavon Starling-Louis, Chris Lim, Tasha Hicks McCray and Phillip Morgan — experts in aspects of worship such as liturgy, visuals and music — are also assisting.
Julia Henderson, Leader for GA Planning and Business Management, noted that Bentley and Ruling Elder Elona Stewart-Street, GA224 Co-Moderators, oversee worship planning for the assembly, with the exception of the Ecumenical Worship service on July 7, which is organized by the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), and Dr. Dianna Wright, Director of Ecclesial and Ecumenical Ministries within the Office of the General Assembly (OGA). The Rev. Dr. Karen A. Thompson of the United Church of Christ will deliver the ecumenical service sermon.
Jayne Culp, a program assistant with OGA who provides staff support to the worship planning team, said the group has been meeting two or three times per month. Now that the sermons and preachers are selected, small groups will plan service details. In the months prior to GA, worship updates will be added to the GA225 website.
Planning team meetings have included brainstorming sessions about connecting sermons to the co-moderators’ vision and the Assembly theme. Culp said that one team member, Chris Lim, helped the team track ideas and link to resources using an online whiteboard, Miro.
The co-moderators’ vision for worship was articulated by Bentley during a recent meeting:
“What I would like to see is this worship experience take on a revival tone, where what we do builds off of one another to a synergistic effect … even though we will be separated [from virtual worship attendees] by miles.
“I’d like to have worship be the engine that powers the whole Assembly,” Bentley added.
As the small groups plan service details, the overall team will look for ways to encourage Assembly attendees to engage with worship and respond to calls for action, reviving a spirit of community for a hybrid digital and in-person space.
The planning team has emphasized full inclusion and participation throughout its discussions, Culp said.
“They’re very focused on getting distanced people to feel connected to the assembly.”
by Fred Tangeman, Office of the General Assembly – January 19, 2022