This week, I am a commissioner to the 138th General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Since each Presbytery sends one-sixth of its ministers, and an equal number of elders, to Assembly each year, it means that most pastors get to be commissioners several times over the course of their ministries.
I’m not able to slack off, though, because I was appointed to the Assembly’s Committee on Business, which is sort of the embodiment of mad duck-paddling that takes place in order for the agenda of the Assembly to float smoothly down the proverbial river. Together, the committee members are trying to make the Assembly’s agenda run like a well-oiled machine, and we seem to be having a measure of success at it.
The Assembly began on Sunday afternoon with “Q&A@GA”. Formerly, Assemblies hosted briefing groups for the whole of Monday in order to allow commissioners to be brought up to speed on the work of the committees and agencies of the church. This year, it was moved to a less formal ‘marketplace’ model and held as commissioners arrived on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday evening saw the opening worship and installation of the Moderator. Worshipping with a thousand others is a great experience. The outgoing Moderator, Rick Horst, gave a fine message challenging the church to be more missional. He then installed the new Moderator, John Vissers, who has chaired each sederunt (sitting) of the Assembly since his installation.
On Monday, numerous reports were heard and acted upon by the Assembly, and the Assembly banquet was held. The entertainment was a youth choir from the Durham region, and they sounded great. Catching up with old friends made it all a real blessing.
On Tuesday morning, the Assembly took on a celebratory tone as retiring national staff and missionaries were feted. Along with that, we heard from a Presbyterian leader from Taiwan, who came to celebrate with us the completion and printing of the entire Bible in Hakka. Hakka is a dialect of Chinese, spoken by many people in Taiwan. It was an emotional occasion to see our own Paul McLean, a missionary and translator, talk about (and read from) the Hakka Bible.
Having served the Bible cause in parachurch work at one time myself, I understand the value of having the Bible in one’s heart language. It was great to see one more translation completed. (Last Sunday, the Canadian Bible Society celebrated the completion of the Bible in Inuktitut, so that’s two translations in one week!)
This just gives you a taste of what’s going on at General Assembly. Being able to spend free time with friends that I don’t get to see very often is a treasured bonus of coming to Assembly. We may not be in the ritziest town in Canada for Assembly, but it doesn’t really matter: most of our time is spent sitting in a gymnasium listening to stories of the work God has done, and praying and deciding about the work God may and will do among us.
I love being part of a connectional church, where we are, indeed, not alone. When you see little bits in the bulletin each Sunday that connect us with the wider church, you’re getting a taste of our connectedness, and how it enables us to serve God and build his kingdom more effectively.