“WHEN?”: Taking the time to be a diverse church

I’m writing this post from the Exhibit hall at the 220th General Assembly as people walk by, rushing from committee deliberations to seminary reunions, from moments of reconciliation to the tension of intense debate.  General Assembly evokes a strange sense of time.  The days are very full. The conversations are epic. Committees risk actions on ancient struggles and new phenomena.

Several people have referred to GA as somewhat like summer camp in its intensity of activities and of relationships and, I might add, its lack of opportunities for sleep.

On Monday Hudson River Presbytery’s Overture, “12-07: On Beginning Active Exploration in Communities to Seek Answers on How to be Church Together with Immigrant Communities” came before the Immigration Committee.  Ours was the first overture to be heard after the passionate, heart-felt open hearings during which the youth of Rural and Migrant Ministries shared about their experience of the U.S.’ broken immigration system.  I was given 3 minutes to address the committee and then stayed to answer questions of clarification.   ACREC strengthened the overture with suggestions from their office (check out the updated overture here).  The commissioners deliberated with thought and care and made some of their own changes.  After deliberation the overture passed unanimously.  Now the overture moves on to plenary and will be voted on by all the commissioners.  In its original as well as its final form, the overture is a call to intercultural transformation between Presbyterian churches (in all their diversity!) and new immigrant communities.  It is a call, ultimately, to spend time together in real and concrete ways.

How might our congregations live into the call of this overture? What is the time we can offer for conversation, worship, shared meals, and accompaniment with new immigrant communities?

It takes time to be the diverse church.  The days are so long and intense at GA because we are struggling to pull together a world of difference into one body.  I get the sense that GA would only improve if we dedicated even more time in our local congregations and presbyteries to practicing how to be together across our differences.  I’m hoping HRP can help lead the way forward.

On a walk along the river a couple days ago I happened upon this note on a post where I stopped to stretch (the text of the note is typed below the picture):

When you find something in life that stirs your soul, keep it. Study it, learn from it, fight for it. Let neither time nor tides separate you from your desire. http://www.randomnoteproject.com

I joined the Presbyterian church after I spent a week at the 216th General Assembly in Richmond, VA.  I joined because of testimonies in the Peacemaking Committee and I joined because of the beautiful and remarkably different people I met throughout the week.  The time spent listening to representatives from Iraq, Colombia, and Iran, and the committee’s struggle to find a way forward together is what stirred my soul.  That was the year that the PC(USA) voted to begin the Colombia Accompaniment Program, a program that has saved lives through the commitment of time and presence in Colombia. Tomorrow Rev. Alice Winters, a mission coworker in Colombia, will be celebrated at the Peace Fellowship Breakfast.  Eight years after I heard her testify at GA, I am so grateful to be surrounded by the Hudson River Presbytery community as we nurture time to be a diverse church.


p.s.: This week I’m cross-posting on the www.assemblyriverreflections.wordpress.com blog which was set up for Hudson River Presbytery representatives to report back to members of the Presbytery on the happenings of the 220th General Assembly.  Check it out!

8 thoughts on ““WHEN?”: Taking the time to be a diverse church

  1. Sarah, this is awesome! I hope you are having powerful experiences and conversations at GA.

    This post was very well timed for the Pleasantville community. 17 members of the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church are spending the week in Florida working with Beth-El Migrant Farmworker Ministry.

    We have been working, talking, worshiping, playing and celebrating with the immigrant population here. It has been quite a blessing to us!

  2. hudrivprescrosscultural says:

    I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences in Florida with the group from Pleasantville! Are you keeping a blog for the trip? If anyone from your group is interested in doing a guest post and reflecting on the trip/cross-cultural ministries in our Presbytery, they are welcome!

  3. Sarah, Thank you for the moving reflections! As you know First Presbyterian Church is in partnership with an Immingrant Brazillian congregation that nest in our church. The New Life church has helped to bring “new life” to FPC in our worship together , healing service, and as we share resources, space and our time with each other. FPC is so blessed by fellowship with our sister church New Life.

  4. Taina says:

    Excellent, Sarah, thanks for sharing that note with us! It’s a keeper, of the soul-journey kind. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures and discoveries. 🙂

    • hudrivprescrosscultural says:

      Hi Taina! Can’t wait to hear about your adventures, too! Welcome back from Honduras. Happy writing…the September 22nd deadline is fast approaching 🙂

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