Keeping It Simple at General Assembly
For the third time, service on the board of More Light Presbyterians takes me to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), this year, in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Today I am working at the More Light booth, greeting friends, blessing rainbow scarves upon the shoulders of former strangers, now sisters and brothers, and preparing for all the events, official and unofficial, of the coming week.
General Assembly continues to be a daunting, almost overwhelming experience with so many people, so many pressing concerns, and so many voices yearning to be honored.
This kind of complex, fraught gathering is not unique, and human beings have forged helpful wisdom through time to guide us all in such confusing situations. We often tell one another, “keep it simple.” Another that I have long carried with me is the maxim used by Al-Anon, the wonderful organization that supports those living with alcoholism in their families: “Do the next right thing.” In other words, we need not take in the whole vastness of a complex situation at once, but rather take it one step, and one interaction, at a time, at each step seeking the right thing to do in that moment.
We do well to adapt these aphorisms to our Presbyterian selves as we watch and participate in the proceedings of the PCUSA General Assembly. So I encourage us to keep it simple at this GA by, at each moment, doing the next Presbyterian thing. What exactly might that be?
The answer I have come to treasure is simply to have the next conversation with the next person we meet, listening with an open heart.
Our particularly Presbyterian insight is that no one person knows the mind of God. We discern God’s will through honestly and courageously sharing with another or in groups — we call them committees, sessions, presbyteries or assemblies — what the Spirit says to our own minds and hearts. We also attend carefully to all the others who speak, listening for God’s Word to us just as carefully as we listen to Scripture in Sunday morning worship.
As Paul suggested in a variety of ways in each of his letters, we will know how to live in Christ by sharing with one another. In Romans Paul speaks of harmony (Romans 15:5-6). To the Corinthians, he commends eating together (I Corinthians 11:17-34) and testing their faith together (2 Corinthians 13:5-8).
So this week at the GA, I will listen carefully to all I meet, open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in that moment. I will also speak up when the Holy Spirit inspires me, with the trust that others, too, will listen to me with an open heart. This is the Presbyterian thing to do; this will keep my heart centered in Christ.
Everyone at General Assembly is a good Presbyterian seeking to know and serve God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. If we all keep it simple and do the next Presbyterian thing — have the next conversation with each next person we encounter, listening with an open heart — at the end of the day, all shall be well.