Rev. Erin Counihan
Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery Moderator
Every two years, a whole lot of Presbyterians gather in one place to do the business of church, worship, and spend a little time together. We call it General Assembly (GA) and in June 2018, for GA223, they’ll be coming to St. Louis to do that, right here, in our hometown.
But what if it was more than that? What if General Assembly was more than a meeting? What if it was more than a Presbyterian family reunion? What if it was more than a one-week gathering? What if it was also a real opportunity to focus on the work Christ is doing in a particular place, and to get a whole lot of Presbyterians involved in that work?
This past June, at the last big get together of Presbyterians for business, worship, and gathering (GA 222 in Portland, OR), our newly elected Stated Clerk of the PC(USA), the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson thought maybe, just maybe, Presbyterians could make a bigger difference with our hands and our feet when we gather. He asked us to consider what God might be calling us to do in the two years leading up to the next gathering. What could it mean for Presbyterians to focus on that hometown? To pray and work and serve there together? To build relationships? To reach out? To get over ourselves? To muster the faith and strength of the entire denomination to engage in what God is doing in that place? And to be witnesses to Christ’s work before we gather, while we gather, and after we gather for General Assembly?
This week, Stated Clerk Nelson, along with the Rev. Tom Hay and Andrew Yaeger-Buckley, from the Office of the General Assembly, came to Giddings-Lovejoy to discuss this wondering, this idea, this vision, which they are calling the Hands and Feet Initiative. It’s a vision to gather the collective witness of Presbyterians leading up to General Assembly and focus it on that place where we’ll be for that next gathering. So, for three days, the team from Louisville met with Presbyterians here in the St. Louis region to talk about what this might look like, learn about our ministries and communities, to listen to our ideas, and to start thinking about how Presbyterians from other parts of the country and world, could engage in ministry together, here, now.
We came away with questions. So many questions.
If the whole denomination is coming here anyway, why not put everyone to work? How is God calling us to make an impact here in our region? What could it mean to invite Presbyterians from all over to come and share in what God is doing in our hometown? What ministry are you working on that could use a couple of extra hands and feet? What is working in your ministry that you want to share with others? What have you learned doing ministry in your community that others need to know? What can they take back to their own hometowns and try there?
We settled on two big questions, though, to move us to next steps. And we invite the Presbytery to consider these questions in moving forward with the Hands and Feet Initiative:
If we had more hands and feet on the ground here in Giddings-Lovejoy, what could we be doing?
What have we learned here in the St. Louis area that we can share with the rest of the Church?
Ideas are already forming for many who attended one of these meetings. Opportunities for congregations to help with flood recovery, for youth to engage in conversations about race, for individuals to learn more about community organizing, and many more have been proposed. We want to keep this conversation going locally. If you attended one of the meetings with the Stated Clerk and have ideas or questions, we want to hear them! If you didn’t attend, but have some interest in learning more, we want to hear from you!
Here’s how you can get involved:
- Reply to this blog post. Share your thoughts, ideas, questions, and comments. This is one place for open dialogue on this initiative.
- Nominate someone, or yourself, to serve on a task force to discuss these ideas and next steps. The State Clerk has asked us to do some work locally on how we might implement such a vision. We are gathering names and putting together a team to start meeting this month. If you are interested and have time, or know of someone who would be great for this project, contact Erin Counihan, moderator, by clicking here to send an email.
- Pray for this ministry. This is something new. We’re trying to see how God can use us Presbyterians in this place, in this time, to do some good. We’re trying to make General Assembly about more than just a one-week meeting. We’re trying to engage with one another in new ways. And we want to put to work a whole lot of hands and feet. That work is messy. There will be mistakes. Pray that we’ll be faithful, messiness and mistakes and all.