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Pastor's Corner

Ministry Spotlight - General Assembly



I didn’t know what to expect, settling down for the long flight to General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky. All I had heard from those that had gone before were statements like, “Oh, you’re going to have such a good time,” and “So excited you’re going, it’s an unforgettable experience,” but nothing concrete about the event itself. Learning that General Assembly is hosted in a different city every two-years would make details hard and after attending, I would have the same feedback for any new person - that it was an incredible and unique experience that I will encourage anyone to go to when able. 


This past Summer, Disciples hosted the first in-person General Assembly since 2019. General Assembly is the national church-body gathering where denomination-wide business is voted upon, general ministries host events and provide reports to the church body, worship services with keynote speakers are held and subject-specific workshops are offered for attendees to take back to their home churches. This year, I was invited to attend as Harbor’s Voting Representative


I was attending alone and any fears of not knowing anyone were quickly resolved as on the first leg of the flight I looked across to the row next to me and immediately recognized former PSWR Regional Ministers Don and Susan Dewey. From there we became informal travel companions, learning we had all the same flight and hotel reservations. Immediately upon landing the conference started with a PSWR Meet and Greet already underway. That night, first impressions were of Downtown Louisville itself, the beautiful hotel most Disciples were staying at and biggest shock to a California visitor, the humidity. 



It was a sight to behold the next morning, walking from the hotel to the conference center next to so many wearing the distinctive red lanyard conference badge - Disciples had truly taken over Downtown Louisville! The conference center was buzzing with excited voices and movement as we all gathered into the main meeting room which felt more like a concert hall. The morning started off with each region introducing itself, a long parade that showed the expanse of Disciples across the US. Immediately made connections with those seated around me, everyone open and friendly. 



Business opened that first session and continued through the next three days. There were a mix of administrative items to vote on combined with church stance items. Business items that created the longest discussions were: 


  • GA-2338 Concerning Food Waste, Food Insecurity, and Environmental Justice 

  • GA-2339 Compelled to Witness: Answering the Cry of our Palestinian Siblings 

  • GA-2341 Calling the Church to Oppose Christian Nationalism 

  • GA-2343 Amendments to the Design of the Christian Church 

  • GA-2352 Invitation to Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation and Affirm the Dignity of Trans-Gender and Gender Diverse People 


I voted easily on all these matters as, proudly I realized, Harbor has already stated its beliefs through action on all of them already. But, this process showed me that we have a wide church body with many different perspectives and though I may have personally or theologically disagreed with some thoughts shared, I was impressed with the calm democratic manner these sessions held, truly giving everyone a voice and always waiting for a true, clear vote. Any time there seemed to be more discussion needed or the vote wasn’t clear, the item was paused to allow further discussion at the next meeting. If further interested in the business items discussed and voted on use this link to view them in detail: https://ga.disciples.org/business/


Outside the Business Sessions, I attended events hosted by General Ministries and

learned much more about the work Disciples does on a national and international level, always seeing more and more familiar faces. The workshops provided were my big highlight, learning from others about the work they are doing in their communities and getting ideas on how to incorporate them at Harbor. My most favorite was on “Artivism” - how art and activism have been used and can be used for current issues. During the conference, this group gave a real example of “chalktivism” surrounding the convention center with chalk art, showing a mix of encouraging and radical statements. An impactful but non-destructive way to communicate messaging. 



Each night, the Assembly gathered for worship, featuring a different Keynote Speaker who offered their various perspectives on the theme, “The Kindom of God Among Us.” First night, Chaplain (MAJ) Owen R. Chandler provided deeply moving insights from his tours in Iraq as a Brigade Chaplain on what living in a military occupied region would have been like for the people of Israel in New Testament times. Rev. Yolanda Norton spoke the following night, creator of the Beyonce Mass, with a service of pure secular music from artists such as Beyonce and Michael Jackson. Continuing General Minister and President Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens closed the conference Tuesday night, giving great personal testimony of her own early experiences with racism and closing with conviction and resolve that could be felt through each person there, saying “I hope that being a part of this church feeds you, shapes you, forms you and fires you up. And calls you to do the work until all God’s world knows justice.” 


General Minister and President Rev. Terri Hord Owens

Traveling back with the Deweys, I walked away with a feeling of being part of a larger body for the first time in awhile. It can be easy to think what’s the point? when the world seems to be in some new conflict or disaster every other day and make the efforts of a small community seem inconsequential. But, seeing the efforts of the full Disciples body reminded me that we are all doing our part in our corners of the world and one day,  the world will know justice.  


I am so grateful to Harbor for allowing me to attend and whether a Voting Representative or not, I will try to make any future Assemblies when possible. The only thing that would have made it better would be more Harbor folks around to share the experience with and so I encourage many of you to plan for 2025 Memphis! 



P.S. I can’t forget the Exhibition Hall where I brought back one too many souvenirs! As a

small thank you to Harbor, I brought back and donated a silverware set for our current and future communion settings specially engraved by AllianceQ. These are sold with the messaging and physical reminder that everyone has a seat at the table.





Some photos of familiar faces from the Assembly!



 
Thank you for reading!

If you wish to continue reading our 2024 Lenten Newsletter in the recommended reading order, please click on the next post shown below in the Related Posts section.
 

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