Hope in the details of your calling
The nitty-gritty work of General Assembly
By Skip Noftzger
Armed with the daily staples of coffee and phone, I venture off to the familiar convention center for another day of meetings, meetings and more meetings that we label the General Assembly. Wandering throughout the halls, I encounter pockets of people gathering for the day ahead.
Some people meet in assigned committees while others gather around the edges, in hallways, empty rooms, and the exhibit hall. Prompted by overtures submitted, we began today to get down to the work of our corporate gathering of the church. The nuts and bolts of pursuing faithfulness in this way can be daunting. Eat. Meet. Repeat. That’s the agenda for the next few days. In a moment of candor, one commissioner admitted, “GA is hard.”
Indeed, it is hard.
With the freedom of not serving as a commissioner, I roam around from one meeting to another. I listen in and observe not only the substance, but the tone of these committees. Whether in structural issues of The Way Forward committee or the advocacy of the Social Justice committee, God’s people gather to listen to one another and listen for God. Our decision making process assumes that God is at work, not somewhere else, but right here in the convention center, in the main gatherings and on the fringes.
The work may be hard, but it is good. We would like there to be easy agreement, but that is rarely the case. For some, the disagreements, the attempts at persuasion, the hallway meetings give an uneasy feeling of politics within the church. Competing interests and positions are driven by both theological and pragmatic desires to be faithful this side of restoration. Yet, these efforts should be and must be placed within the larger context of our collaboration under the Lordship of Christ.
We desire to live out through word and action Jesus’ prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Despite the long hours and longer seeming discussions, we don’t give in. By grace we go on. We cannot and will not relegate discovery of the hope in our calling just to inspirational worship or celebratory reports. We pursue this hope even when it’s challenging. We pursue it through the (sometimes) grinding work of committees.
In meetings rooms and hallways, countless saints come together to discuss, to debate, to laugh, to cry and to pray. I give thanks that God is in these details, like when people are passionate about the things they believe God cares about. God was already here when we came to Portland to be with one another and for God’s world. God is here when we talk and act.
And so I pray for all of us who are discerning God’s will in the context of these assemblies. Just as we did in worship, we pray in the meetings and in the hallways, in the coffee shops and in the exhibit hall. I pray that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened so we may know the hope to which God has called us. Sometimes we can find that in the details.
Skip Noftzger is the Executive and Stated Clerk for the Presbytery of Redstone. You can follow his blog at http://noftzger.tumblr.com.