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The big picture: assembly seems to miss the forest for the trees.

WHEN I ARRIVED at General Assembly, I had no idea what to expect. How could over 200 people attend the same meeting and get anything done? What will happen when people disagree? Do things get ugly? Should I have read the Book of Reports more closely?

As assembly unfolded, I found that many of my fears were for nothing, and I was struck by the feeling of community. It always amazes me how tight-knit our larger national church can feel.

However, there were aspects of the assembly that I found frustrating. It's no secret that the Presbyterian Church is on the decline, and that congregations across the country are facing a myriad of challenges. I was left wondering what was accomplished at the 140th General Assembly to support the church moving forward, and what would help to ensure that when I "grow up" there will still be a PCC to belong to. I wondered what decisions were made that truly required the attention and prayerful discernment of more than 200 leaders. I wondered what other challenges and discussions could have used their attention and focus instead.

I think of the struggle and time spent word-smithing a possible vision statement for the church. We debated the use of words like "equipping," and I thought about whether time might have been better used exploring what that word means, and how, as a national church, local congregations and missions could feel equipped and empowered to do God's work.

Assembly is one of the few opportunities where we, as a church, have a broad representation of our leadership from across the country. This presents an amazing opportunity to learn from each other, to share our challenges and celebrate our successes. I hope we are not losing out on opportunities by getting caught up in the process and routine matters. We at times have a tendency to miss the forest for the trees, (or in some cases, the issue for the process), but I hope that we as a denomination can move past that and begin to work through our struggles together.

Though I had moments of confusion and frustration, I also experienced some moments of great joy and laughter. I felt the Spirit amongst us during our worship services, heard of God's work around the world through our ecumenical speakers and felt the warm embrace of fellowship amongst my brothers and sisters in the church. I am grateful for this opportunity to have been involved as a young adult representative.

Tristan Gerrie is an elder at Morningside-High Park, Toronto.

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Author:Gerrie, Tristan
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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