Pastor’s Journal

Rev. Tom C. OakI am writing this article from the observer’s gallery of the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA); where thousands of Presbyterians from around the world have gathered on the banks of the beautiful Mississippi under the shadow of the Gateway to the Midwest in St. Louis, Missouri to address the business and further the mission of the church.

This is a BIG DEAL y’all.

Every other year we Presbyterians come together to celebrate our connectionalism, to affirm our common faith heritage, to honor those Presbyterian brothers and sisters who have born courageous witness in the past and upon whose shoulders today we stand, and to boldly proclaim that the Presbyterian Church (USA) has a vital mission yet to accomplish in the world.

Let me say that I am not necessarily a great fan of such national conferences. And yet, to hear thousands of voices singing “The Church’s One Foundation” during the opening worship service, and then to see that same multitude representing all ages, races, nationalities and orientations come forward to receive Holy Communion through intinction—it is difficult for me, as a lifelong Presbyterian, to describe the feeling I had. Or the joy of seeing thousands of Presbyterians, just a moment ago, getting silly as they learn the salsa during a brief break in the business agenda.

To paraphrase a quote from Mark Twain, “The reports of the church’s demise are greatly exaggerated.”
The Presbyterian Church is alive and well right here in St. Louis—and being inspired and empowered and anointed for God’s work in the world. And not only that—reports are coming in from around the nation and across the globe of vital and innovative ministry going on for the sake of the Gospel of love, peace and justice in the name of Jesus Christ.

And we, at First Presbyterian Church in Cazenovia, are an integral part of that vital mission.

As I sit here writing this article, Commissioners of the 223rd General Assembly are debating prior to taking a vote concerning “The Way Forward;” an important overture based on years long study to restructure the PCUSA for greater efficiency and effectiveness. There are many laborious details which goes into such a vote, but the upshot has to do with transforming the church culture to function better in today’s world (and on an increasingly limited budget).

While this is a seminal overture for this General Assembly, certainly, I will not bore you with the details (even if I understood them). Suffice it so say that our denomination is steeped in the democratic process undergirded by the belief that every voice should be heard.

As I try to figure out better what is currently occurring on the floor, meanwhile I will look forward to sharing with you the Big Picture of the Presbyterian Church (USA) when I return.

Until then—As Always, I Remain Yours in Christ Jesus.