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General Assembly planning director takes online questions and discusses why she can hardly wait for GA226 to start next month

Kate Trigger Duffert takes to the airwaves to dispense equal measures of enthusiasm and expertise

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Kate Trigger Duffert

LOUISVILLE — Kate Trigger Duffert has been attending General Assembly since she was a child, and yet no one is more excited for the 226th General Assembly to get underway next month than she is.

Calling herself “a deep lover of the work of this church,” Trigger Duffert, director of General Assembly Planning in the Office of the General Assembly, shared some of her enthusiasm and expertise concerning the assembly. Online committee meetings begin June 25, and in-person activities are slated to commence June 29 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Watch Trigger Duffert’s question-and-answer session held via Facebook Live on Thursday here.

All proceedings of the 226th General Assembly, including committee meetings and plenaries, will be available online at this website, a site Trigger Duffert suggested people wanting to learn more about the PC(USA)’s first in-person assembly since 2018 visit soon, and often. Those with questions can send an email here.

The official GA226 website has a docket, a code of conduct, pages on equity and inclusion, information on hotels and accessibility, and a description of spaces that will be provided for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ assembly attendees. There’s also information about how to be an official assembly observer and tabs on what to expect during worship and assembly events.

Having online committees and in-person plenaries is “a format we haven’t done before, but every assembly is unique,” Triger Duffert said. One thing unique about this assembly is it won’t feature an app describing assembly events. The reason, Trigger Duffert said, is that the docket during the in-person dates, June 29-July 4, is so full that there’s little time for commissioners and advisory delegates to attend side events, which typically would be displayed on an app.

“That doesn’t mean apps are forever off the table,” she said. “We are living into a new way of doing this particular assembly.”

Trigger Duffert said her parents used to drag their very willing daughter to many General Assemblies during her formative years. She brought her own 3-month-old to the 223rd General Assembly, held in St. Louis in 2018.

Kid-friendly activities will be offered at the 226th General Assembly, Trigger Duffert said, starting with cost offsets for dependent care at the assembly. An unstaffed family room will be on site with fun activities for children and a livestream for caregivers, keeping them up to date on what’s going on during plenaries.

“It’ll be a place where kids can be kids and you don’t have to miss out on what’s happening in assembly hall,” she said. “The assembly is absolutely open to children.”

Trigger Duffert called Salt Lake City “very walkable,” with assembly hotels less than two blocks from the convention center, although observers may find their hotels farther out. “The sidewalks are broad. It’s easy to get around,” she said.

Light rail is readily available in Salt Lake City, and the area around the Salt Palace Convention Center is very walkable. (Photo by Ashton Bingham via Unsplash)

The Presbytery of Utah “is excited about people coming and experiencing what it’s like to be a Presbyterian in Utah,” she said. “They’re excited for us to join them and support them.” Churches across the presbytery will welcome assembly-goers to worship on June 30. The presbytery will host a welcome reception June 29 and is arranging transportation to PC(USA) churches within the presbytery the following day.

On May 11, the 45-day deadline came and went. That means most committees have approved schedules for business items to be considered during their online meetings. Learn more here. The General Assembly planning team is working to finalize that information “so that people can indicate which items they want to speak to,” Trigger Duffert said. Open hearings will be held live during committee meetings.

Asked what pastors and others can do to share General Assembly news and experiences with the people back home, Trigger Duffert landed first on sharing worship materials and videos of General Assembly worship, which many attendees report is among the highlights of their assembly experience.

Also, “think about the process,” she suggested. “Decisions happen at a national body, but they are issues that came out of congregations. The conversations that happen at the assembly are a reflection of what’s happening at the congregational level, and the decisions made impact congregations directly. The process of our polity is a wonderful way to see how our connectional church plays out within the General Assembly.”

The PC(USA)’s communications ministry plans a General Assembly Daily interview with prominent assembly participants that will be livestreamed daily around noon. Trigger Duffert also advised checking out news stories reporting on committee and plenary actions as well as accounts of worship services and other GA events. The PC(USA)’s social media accounts, some of which can be accessed here and here, are another good way to stay on top of GA226. “There will be all sorts of ways the news is coming out,” Trigger Duffert said. “It is the assembly of the church, and that includes every member of every congregation.”

Drawing her half-hour Q&A to a close, Trigger Duffert offered thanks “to each of you who will be coming to the assembly, online or in person.” All are “people who passionately believe in the capacity of the church to make changes in the world.”

“I can’t leave without saying thank you to colleagues on the GA planning team” who are “making this assembly happen. They are phenomenal people, caring and grace filled. Every action taken is thought through diligently and with so much care, and that includes everyone who will be there.”

“I look forward to seeing you in Salt Lake City or online,” she told viewers. “Feel free to flag me down and say hello. We will all be in one room and be able to greet one another and celebrate this fantastic church that continues to be reformed and is reforming the world around it.”

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