I enjoy collecting stories. I enjoy meeting people and figuring out the lines that connect us. In the Presbyterian Church (USA), a.k.a. PCUSA, the phrase connectional church gets repeated often. Our form of government is based upon working together as partners in a congregation, as congregations, as presbyteries, and as synods. General Assembly (GA) is the gathering for governing decisions of the whole denomination, it is a practical expression of our connectional nature.
GA is also a chance to collect more stories and figure out more connections. So far on this first day I have found classmates, colleagues who have moved, extended family, current colleagues, and seminary professors. All of these people are a part of my story. They are names and faces I have collected, phone numbers and e-mail addresses stored in my electronic devices, and they are stories I tell. They are this eclectic bunch I have collected and hold tightly in my prayers and my heart.
Today has been full of hugs, smiles, and exclamations of joy as this eclectic bunch of people I know wander by me, call my name, or respond when I call their name. Today I have collected new stories, met new people, and discovered connections I did not know existed. I have wandered around a convention center full of many people and yet not felt lost, or alone, or invisible. Instead, I have felt clearly what it means to belong to something bigger than myself.
I have witnessed the PCUSA’s connectional nature many times over the years, but today as we worked through the organizational details necessary to conduct business this week, I was amazed I could look around and see faces of people whose stories I have held for years. I know this week will bring challenges and exhaustion, but I am confident I will add to my collection of stories of God’s action in the world, and hopefully make a new friend or two along the way.