Song and message focus on unity at historic gathering
by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Hundreds of people packed the sanctuary of Iglesia Presbiteriana de Puerto Nuevo on Wednesday evening to celebrate and worship. It was a historic gathering of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and Office of the General Assembly. This was the first time the interim executive director, Stated Clerk and Co-Moderators had worshipped together in Puerto Rico.
Both the PMA Board and Committee on the Office of the General Assembly are meeting this week in Puerto Rico at the invitation of the Presbytery of San Juan. The meeting and the joint worship were an expression of solidarity with the presbytery.
A small worship band set the tone for the service with lively music. Representatives of the PMA Board and COGA took part in the service along with their counterparts in the various presbyteries of the region. Through the prayers and salutations, participants recognized the significance of the joint gathering.
“Like a wedding, this is an occasion to celebrate love,” said PMA Interim Executive Director Tony De La Rosa. “This is an occasion to celebrate the love between our agencies, the denomination and most important, the love God almighty in Jesus Christ who unites us tonight in this place.”
De La Rosa, Stated Clerk the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, and Co-Moderators the Revs. Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston, were presented with gifts from the various presbyteries.
“This has been a blessing for us. We want to celebrate your presence here because the work you do is very important to the church and we are thankful for your service, time and dedication,” said the Rev. Barbara Gaddis, chair of the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly. “We will be praying for you. Your joy will be our joy and above all, always keep humble, focused in order to do great things.”
The Rev. Pablo Caraballo with the Southwest Presbytery gave the message focusing on unity within the church. Preaching from John 17: 20-26, Caraballo said Jesus was praying for himself, His disciples and for all believers with a central theme of unity.
“This unity must be manifested and active by love in church, communion in community and faith,” said Caraballo. “A table where we all share the bread and cup. In a unified church, the same hope is shared, love of Christ is known, and new humanity is formed.”
One of the ways to build unity, he says, is through listening.
“Listening is a way we relate to one person’s life story. It is commitment to respect the other person, giving the full attention,” said Caraballo. “We listen with our ears, eyes, heart and head. We listen to words and observe body language, facial expression, tone of voice. Listening builds relationships and is necessary to direct unity within the church.”
Caraballo told the congregation that building unity means learning from and loving each other in good and bad times.
“When you love, you affirm humanity. Humans are so important that God became human, which tells of God’s love, compassion and mercy for all humanity,” he said. “Love, compassion and humanity must be distinctive in the life of the church.”
Caraballo also urged the congregation to make forgiveness and reconciliation a way of life.
“Give yourself permission to be free of doubts, anxieties and worries that hamper unity of church,” said Caraballo. “The church is a living community of people of different genders, groups, sexual orientations. It is where ideologies co-exist.”
In addition to celebrating communion during the service, a $2,500 offering was collected, which will fund tuition for four Puerto Rican seminarians next semester.
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