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memories of GA

I’ve had a ball today, watching portions of the General Assembly via QuickTime. I happened to tune in just in time to see Catherine Gonzales, a former professor of mine, receive an award from the Committee on Theological Education. Friends, in the pantheon of greats in the church, Catherine is a goddess.

Yes, I’m a big honkin’ nerd. I’ll admit it, I enjoy GA. There are things about it that drive me nuts—the ubiquitous politicking, the ponderous motions-to-perfect and shall-the-substitute-motion-become-the-main-motion, but I love it. The Assembly is a great big family reunion, complete with Surly Uncle Earl and Hapless Aunt Betty, with tragically unhip attire (name tags, tote bags), self-deprecating inside jokes, a little bit of forced-grin “Aren’t we having a good time together?” and a whole lot of spontaneous grace from unexpected places—unscripted moments that take your breath away.

Various folks are predicting the death of the PCUSA should recommendation 5 of the PUP report be approved in plenary tomorrow. Apparently, should this catastrophe come to pass, it would be a death well-deserved. I’m not so sure of that. I’ll be watching the deliberations tomorrow, and perhaps I’ll post something about it, but in the meantime I say there’s life in the old girl yet.

Whether we are teetering on the brink of disaster tonight or not, whether tomorrow is “the end of the church as we know it,” I want to say that I feel fine. I thought I’d share a few of my most vivid memories of the GAs I’ve attended:

The election of Jack Rogers as moderator: I attended the 2001 assembly as an observer and a participant in a polity course that takes place at the GA. Jack Rogers came to visit our class the morning after his election to talk about the experience. I remember it had taken him a long time to make it into the plenary hall after his election, and he told us why: when the officials came in to where the candidates were waiting and announced the result, the other candidates wouldn’t let him leave until they had laid hands on him and prayed for him. He was visibly moved by their generosity and faith and got choked up talking about it.

Incidentally, I’m fairly certain that he’s the one I preached about who got the e-mail saying, “I pray for your death because you’re killing the church.”

Doing the White-Folks’ Overbite: The Witherspoon Society party is a not-to-be-missed event—food, dancing and general revelry. However, there’s something disturbing about dancing to “Baby Got Back” with a bunch of (mostly) white, graying Calvinists.

GA with a Stowaway: I’ve attended GA three times, once as a Theological Student Advisory Delegate from Crusty-ol’ Theological Seminary. I was newly pregnant that year and hadn’t told many people. The pace about killed me. My roommate, CG Auntie, knew. To stave off the early-morning queasies, I ordered a room-service breakfast every single day. CG Auntie was very supportive of this indulgence—not all frugal Presbyterians would have been.

A Toast to a Dearly Departed Saint: As a TSAD, I sat with the delegation from my home presbytery. One night Presbytery Saint took our group out to dinner at a family-style Italian place. Aside from some of our group not understanding how family-style worked, leaving this closeted pregnant woman ravenous while heaping plates of pasta languished at the far end of the table, it was a fine evening. I only saw Presbytery Saint once more after that, and it was at my ordination, when he offered me his arm and walked with me into the chancel of the church, “presenting” me for ordination. He died last year. As I shared with NotShyChiRev at the time, I wish I knew the male equivalent of dame, because that’s what he was.

In Training for Presbytery Exec: I attended one day of the Richmond GA. My mother-in-law was there as interim executive presbyter for a presbytery in the upper Midwest. I ended up sitting next to her in the EP section, listening and gabbing and knitting with those cynical, seen-it-all EPs. Some gruff old guy in the seat next to mine was really bothered by my crashing their party… [shrug]

We Are the Body of Christ…?: Whoever decides on the placement of organizations in the exhibit hall has a dry sense of humor. Presbyterians Pro-life is always spittin’ distance from Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options, although thankfully, I’ve never seen any spitting. Same with the various groups on all sides of the GLBT ordination issue. I like to think that the folks are civil, even friendly, with one another. They have a job to do and they’re there to do it—nothing personal. Reminds me of that old Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf cartoon—the two characters talk amiably on their way in to work ("Morning, Ralph." "Morning, Sam".) Then they punch the time-clock and go at it.

Earning my Street Cred: As a TSAD I gave the opening prayer for one of the plenary meetings. Thankfully I was unable to see the Jumbotron from the stage, otherwise I would have surely been embarrassed by my Gargantuan Pregnancy Acne. I served on a high-profile committee that year, and also spoke from the plenary floor a few times, and as a result I am proud to say that I’ve been quoted in the Layman.


Yes, I have arrived. I’m sure my name’s on a no-hire list somewhere as a result.

I Have My Own Presbytery: As some of you know, I have a long name: Firstname Lastname Marriedname. A few weeks after the GA where I was a TSAD, my theology professor sent me a one-line e-mail:

“Where exactly is the Presbytery of Marriedname?”

Apparently one of the quotes in the Layman identified me as “Firstname Lastname, of the Presbytery of Marriedname.”

Now, I’ve heard the Layman described as the National Enquirer of the PCUSA. I know good people who read it, but let me just say this about that comparison: if they can’t even be bothered to factcheck something theologically neutral, like the names of presbyteries, does anyone think they’re going to go out of their way to factcheck some misleading piece of information that supports their point of view?

At any rate, I’d like to invite you to join the Presbytery of Reverendmother. Our meetings are short, uplifting, and always preceded by dinner and ‘ritas at the nearby Tex-Mex place.

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