by Phyllis Kidwell
Director of Christian Education
I had the privilege of attending the 223rd General Assembly in St Louis, MO, this year, along with 537 other commissioners from 170 presbyteries. The 8-day meeting started on Saturday, June 16 and went at a fast speed from there through the ending worship on Saturday, June 23. For me, the highlight of our time was spent in worship. We heard various preachers from around the country and learned about the church in a way that emphasized our diversity. The new Book of Common worship brought new liturgy that was used and emphasized throughout the services. Each plenary session began with guitar music and singing, other times we heard small choirs, instrumentalists and vocalists. It was a very inspiring way to stay focused on the Holy Spirit guiding our work.
One of the more interesting things we did was elect new leadership for the General Assembly. At the 222nd General Assembly, two moderators were elected to serve as Co-Moderators. These two, Rev. Denise Anderson and Rev. Jan Edmiston worked tirelessly throughout their two-year term. I had the privilege of hearing them at the Mid Council Moderator’s Conference last October and that is where I learned about the scope of their work. Then, on a trip to Jordan, Israel and Palestine, our group worked and worshiped with Rev. Anderson while she attended a conference in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Seeing her there turned a national perspective to a global one.
For our consideration, there were three groups of candidates. One was the more traditional moderator; vice-moderator combination and two were co-moderator candidates. After much debate and several votes, we elected Ruling Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri (Presbytery of Tropical Florida) and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann (Presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England) on the fourth vote. After the election, we were taught to salsa dance by Vilmarie and a few of her friends. The crowd was enthused with her style, music and dance. The co-moderators managed the meeting very well and kept us on track (for the most part).
The committee work was also important as ten committees met to discuss the specific overtures brought to the assembly in the preceding two years. Some had many overtures and some as few as five. I served on the Mid-councils Committee which was very diverse and well run. We were able to complete our work in the two days allotted thanks to a subcommittee that worked hard to prepare a response to two overtures before us. Our response was later adopted by the assembly which was affirming.
The previous GA created the Way Forward Commission “to discern the vision for structure and function of our denomination.” We heard reports from this commission and from the 2020 Visioning Team, which includes a teaching elder from Grace Presbytery, Rev. Lisa Perkins who serves in Sherman, Texas. Both groups have done countless hours of work on evaluating our denomination and assisting leaders to see, literally, the way forward. The strongest message from these groups is that the church is alive, well and moving into the future to serve our Triune God.