Today’s post is going to describe to you some of the details of the last three days in hopes you will feel as if you are here with me. This is also a post for my children who are reading and wondering what it is I am doing besides talking to friends and making new friends.
On Friday I arrived at the airport and was greeted by volunteers from the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA). These volunteers explained about the tram system of transportation and told me where to go in the Oregon Convention Center (OCC) to register. Once at the OCC I picked up my registration packet and looked around a little bit.
On Saturday I arrived at the OCC to see lots of people walking around greeting each other. I made a short loop through the Exhibition Hall (where vendors and many groups of the PCUSA have booths), then walked into the plenary area. This is the large space in the OCC and is separated into areas based upon the purpose of the participants. I am a Commissioner which means I can wander in every area except the platform. Observers and support staff are restricted from the official floor where the Commissioners sit. We are identified by the color badge we are wearing.
Commissioners have assigned seats which is nice because I do not have to think about where to sit and I get to sit with the our presbytery’s Commissioners and our Young Adult Advisory Delegate (YAAD). On the table at each spot we find information and gifts each day. The water bottle in today’s photo is one of the gifts. Our presbytery is seated near a microphone so we have two assistants sitting behind us who can answer all kinds of parliamentary and process questions. I walked to my spot and saw two copies of Robert’s Rules of Order, one of them spiral bound at those spots and all I could do is smile. I do enjoy Robert’s Rules of Order.
Saturday began with a worship service. There were over 3,000 people in attendance. In my head I kept hearing the often asked question, “How many people were in worship on Sunday?” This time no one asked, but I really wanted to be able to say, “OVER THREE THOUSAND!” Reports and greetings were heard from a wide variety of people from all over the world and from Portland. We watched video presentations of some of the work of the PCUSA. We acted on certain business items regarding the organization for the week, and we learned how to vote using our electronic devices.
Saturday ended with a moment of history. Saturday evening is the official election of the Moderator of General Assembly. This is an elected position with a two year term. The person who holds this office represents the PCUSA in many ways and helps to run the Assembly meeting. It is an office that requires a lot of time and effort. This year for the first time ever we had two teams of co-moderators. This was history right in front of us. The next bit of history that happened was the election of two female co-moderator candidates. This is the first time we have elected co-moderators, usually there is a moderator and vice-moderator. This is also the first time we elected two women to be the moderator team. Adding to the significance of this moment is that this GA marks the sixtieth anniversary of the ordination of women as teaching elders (pastors) and eight-fifth anniversary of the ordination of women as ruling elders. I had the thought last night that I will one day tell others I was there for that moment and they will look at me with wide eyes.
Sunday’s business began in the afternoon to allow for the chance to worship in local congregations in the morning. The business was similar with greetings and challenges from partners from other denominations and faith traditions, videos, and information sharing. The majority of the assembly was given the chance to relax together and greet the new co-moderators. The committee I am on had to meet because we are responsible for establishing the docket for the rest of the plenary sessions. After dinner the other committees met to get organized. After four hours of work my committee finished for the night and I left to return to my room and do my homework.
Monday and Tuesday we will be working in our committees. On Wednesday we will return to the plenary sessions and continue with those until Saturday at noon. Throughout it all I am taking notes and soaking up the whole experience. If you have specific questions let me know and I will answer them. I plan to return to my observations tomorrow and leave the details for our in person conversations.