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.


Reverend Janet

3 Responses
  • Mike Fazzini on July 5, 2010

    Dear Janet, Peace be with you. I completely get your feeling of the overwhelming complexity of GA. It seems that you’ve uncovered a straightforward strategy for taking it all in and for giving your best….doing the next right thing.
    I have never known you to do anything else but that. So whether it’s a new discovery or just going where you are naturally inclined to go trust the Spirit alive in you to be your compass and keep on doing the next right thing.
    You and the whole More Light crew are in my thoughts this week. Be well, Mike

  • Janet Edwards on July 5, 2010

    Dear Mike,

    I am so grateful for your encouraging words. I will pass on your good thoughts to the More Light folk here.

    You know you can follow the unfolding debates and votes in committees and the plenary of the assembly from a link on the More Light Presbyterians website or on the PCUSA website. These will give you some sense of life for a commissioner to General Assembly.

    I can see how earnestly all the commissioners here are trying to do the next Presbyterian thing, often with complicated parliamentary procedure, and touchy hot buttons testing everyone’s patience. I saw a sign on the wall in one meeting room that had in big letters: Think, Pray, Speak. That carries a lot of wisdom for all kinds of situations.

    Thanks for continuing your prayers for the Assembly and for More Light. Peace, Janet

  • Chan21Kendra on July 7, 2010

    Make your own life more simple take the loans and all you require.

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