By Ed Thompson
Presbytery of West Virginia
To be honest, Sunday was a slow day. It started out well. The Presbyterian Foundation sponsored a breakfast for Mid-Council Leaders that featured Christian musician Fernando Ortega. Usually they bring in a well-known theologian to address this gathering, but this year they decided to go in a different direction. I like a wide variety of music, although I never really listen to Christian music. This guy, however, was good. Apparently, he has won a Grammy and maybe a couple Dove awards. I didn’t buy any of the CDs he had for sale, but I will seriously consider doing that once I get home. I commend him to you.
The worship service at the Cote Brilliante Presbyterian Church had even more energy, and the music was outstanding. They had a 20-member men’s chorus that had the place rocking. Their chancel choir had 25 members and featured an outstanding female soloist. They also had a member of their bell choir do a solo performance of “The Lord’s Prayer.” I hadn’t seen anyone do something like that since Lois Coffey. Lois was better, but this guy was pretty good.
The sermon was also very good, with the pastor preaching from Luke 23:33-35 (Jesus speaking from the cross, asking forgiveness for those who have crucified him). The sermon title was “What They Did Not Know.” He got good response from the congregation with a well-thought-out, well-delivered sermon. The man can preach.
Cote Brilliante has an interesting history. Apparently, the legal case that led to the outlawing of “redlining” (the legal covenants that prohibited African-Americans from purchasing homes in certain communities due to their race) involved a home about three houses away from the church. The church session at the time contributed to the legal defense of such covenants because they knew if they were overturned, the neighborhood would change. The courts decided such covenants were against the law. The neighborhood did change, as most white members moved away. As a result, the church closed for a few years until it was reorganized as an African-American congregation. I’m sure they have their challenges as the area looked pretty depressed, but, all in all, they seem to be doing pretty well. The group Presbyterian Voices for Justice is honoring the church with its Ministries for Justice Award on Tuesday night.
Following worship, they fed us a good lunch and then gave us small goodie bags as we were getting back on the bus. They get an “A” for hospitality.
The third plenary session began at 2:30 PM. It started with a report by the Stated Clerk. Being the first speaker after lunch is certainly bad timing, but he’s done better.
That was followed by the commissioning of Young Adult Volunteers and Mission Co-workers. That usually happens at a worship service later in the week, but it was still pretty inspiring. Seven of the 130 Young Adult Volunteers were actually present. Most of them seemed to be here as Young Adult Advisory Delegates, which makes sense. Five Mission Co-workers were present for commissioning, with the majority of them going to Nicaragua or Guatemala. I think I heard them say we have 120 Mission Co-workers serving in 70 countries. This was the highlight of the afternoon.
There were then reports from the 2020 Mission Team, a joint report from the Way Forward Commission and the All Agency Review Committee, and the Special Committee to Study the Reformed Perspective on Christian Education in the 21st Century. I have to admit that I may be jaded since this is the 12th General Assembly I have attended, but these reports just seemed kind of wordy. I suppose I should give them the benefit of the doubt and read their actual recommendations on PC-Biz, and I might actually do that but it’s going to have to be a pretty slow day before that happens. PC-Biz, though, is a great resource and a great way to keep up with everything that’s happening at General Assembly. I encourage you to check it out: https://www.pc-biz.org
Committees began meeting this evening, with the first hour of the session closed to outside observers. I had thought about listening to some live music at the National Blues Museum but discovered they were sold out. I probably should have seen that coming. I ended up heading back to my room and watching the Cubs and Cardinals play on ESPN.
Tomorrow, I’ll sit in on various committees. I’ll probably start with Committee 10 that will deal with the Small Church overture we endorsed as a presbytery and then go to Committee 8 that’s dealing with the overtures calling for divestment from Fossil Fuel companies. After that, we’ll see. It should be a good day.