Apologies to my non-Presbyterian friends, but here goes some unpacking from my last week.
The past week was a super busy one in the life of my church and in the life of the PC (USA). Watching the progress in polity of General Assembly (GA) our governing body meeting in Detroit from a youth mission work site in New Orleans was unique and in surprising ways enriching. In both service out in the world and service within the church body, we struggle together to do the right thing. There are no guarantees, but the spirit is at work in our midst to help us muddle through. We pray, we serve, and we struggle together. Because we are pretty much guaranteed to not always make everyone happy, we compromise and work together. In my case this time with a hammer in one hand and a cell phone checking updates in the other.
But the important thing is prayerful action. We serve together seeking to make the community and our neighbors feel the justice and benefit of Christ's body, the church, healthier in the world today. Divestment decisions and marriage definition were the big media topics from GA. However, these are complex issues that are not given justice unless you look at them more deeply.
The youth on the mission trip learned to look more deeply. They weren't just sweating and helping with construction, but they were extending a hand of hope in a community that desperately needs it. Holding out a hand in hope is what church is all about. Even though it has been eight years since Hurricane Katrina, the Ninth Ward needs hope - they need to know someone cares enough to act. The same is true of our governing body. You may disagree with actions taken, or may endorse them whole-heartedly. However, the church cares enough to act.
For those of you inclined to a knee-jerk reaction of joy or scorn, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with GA decisions beyond just media and to familiarize yourself with our mission work (youth, children and adults).
I don't think it coincidence that the theme for GA was: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” (Romans 15:13), and the group we did mission with was RHINO - Renewing Hope in New Orleans!
Talk to one another, talk to your pastors and elders (this works outside Presbyterian world too - talk to your faith community!). Read what missionaries write - talk to youth and children who go on trips this summer, and check out some of the summaries on GA. I recommend Presbyterian Outlook as a good resource. I really liked what this article had to say as well: http://kekovacs.blogspot.com/2014/06/abounding-in-hope.html?m=1
Relationship - how we get along in love with our neighbors is what Christianity and being the church is about. Extending hope is fundamental to doing that. Don't look aside and get accustomed to the downtrodden in our midst. We can't ignore the uncomfortable issues because to deal with them may cause controversy. We are community and have a responsibility to know our work in this world as the arm of hope extended from Christ today.