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In Spirit and Truth

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About this blog

In Spirit and Truth seeks to encourage discussion and deeper consideration of representation issues in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is hoped entries will prompt reflection and dialogue on aspects of expanding representation and supporting full participation in the PCUSA, especially at the assembly and mid council levels.  

This blog will occasionally feature content written by one of the fifteen members of the General Assembly Committee on Representation, who are teaching and ruling elders from across the country, as well as links and articles of particular interest. The ministries of advising, consulting, advocating, reviewing and recommending are vital to the life of the whole Body of Christ. Committees on Representation and/or their functions exists at all councils above session so from time to time we may highlight activities and insights from sister committees on representation at lower councils throughout the church.  

Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. or the General Assembly Committee on Representation.
Author/Facilitator Molly Casteel is an Assistant Stated Clerk and the Coordinator for Representation, Inclusiveness and Ruling Elder Training in the Office of the General Assembly.  She is a teaching elder (a.k.a. Minister of Word and Sacrament) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary.

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August 23, 2014

What is the Church to do with #Ferguson, #MichaelBrown and #HandsUpDon’tShoot?

A Resource for Hosting A Conversation

Friday afternoon staff gathered in the Chapel at the Presbyterian Center for a conversation. One of the outcomes was a request to write up the process we used and to share it. 

Image is a worn red brick wall with "No Justice No Peace" written across it in white graffiti style lettering (all caps)The invite said this:

What is the Church to do with #Ferguson, #MichaelBrown and #HandsUpDon’tShoot?

Come to the Chapel on Friday, August 22 at 2pm for an all-staff conversation

“You aren’t going to fix 400 years with a prayer” said this week by a man working at Greater St. Mark’s Church, a gathering place for the community.  As people of faith we believe prayer matters – but words alone cannot adequately respond. To paraphrase St. Francis, “pray unceasingly, if necessary use words.”  It’s time to act.

We have differing responses and levels of connection to the terrible events surrounding the shooting death of Michael Brown. Let us sit at the bank of the river, bringing our lament and our holy fires.

Come as you are, be it sad, confused, angry, fearful or thoughtful. Connect, reflect and suggest action steps.

Join the conversation bringing your voice and experiences to inform the church’s response to the terrible events in Ferguson, Missouri and the situations closer to home lying just beneath the surface.

This one hour conversation will be co-facilitated by Sera Chung (PMA) and Molly Casteel (OGA).

We had over 50 folks come.  We share with you the framing we used for our conversation. We offer it as one way to enter these difficult conversations.

This and other resources will be shared on the racial justice ministry website (Presbyterian Mission Agency) in coming days. 

Here's a sketch of the resource:

We chose to use music to enter and depart from the space. Beginning with the African American spiritual, Wade in the Water and ending with the refrain from For Everyone Born by Shirley Erena Murray (GG 769, Glory to God, 2014).

We moved through the following elements:

Introduction & Opening Prayer

Framing for the Conversations and review of Mutual Invitation

Forming small groups of 5 or 6 persons (seeking new connections, rather than familiar ones)

Question(s) (with freedom to propose a question on your heart to your small group for consideration)

Reconvening in larger group to make suggestions for action steps in popcorn style (recorded on newsprint)

Closing prayer, with an invitation to participants to vote their top two action items by placing a sticker next to them as they depart.

Download a PDF of this resource (PDF).


Categories: Advocacy, Cultural proficiency, Justice

Tags: conversation, ferguson, hands up don't shoot, lament, michael brown, racial justice

July 29, 2014

Summertime and the livin' ain't so easy


I’m guessing my memory of days long ago when I was in school is responsible for the persistent idea that summer should be slower and more relaxing.  Don’t get me wrong I enjoy the longer days and sunlight and I revel in the delicious fresh veggies and fruits that fill the farmer's market and neighbors gardens, but time this year is not readily available for rest. 

There was the 221st General Assembly in June, which adds to the tasks and roles I juggle professionally.  So many worked long hours for months so that the two weeks ...

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June 5, 2014

How Do We Measure Participation?

Have you ever wondered what participation looks like in real time at General Assembly? Are you attending GA221 in Detroit? Do you enjoy seeing the church do its work in committee?

We are recruiting observers of committee business during the 221st General Assembly (2014). We've learned that we need a full diversity and representation in the observers - everyone sees and hears the action before them a little differently. The more observers, the better picture we get of what's happening in participation.

It is said that a group working in committee is like making sausage. We are looking for ...

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May 19, 2014

What Did You Say? Representation and Language of the 221st General Assembly (2014)

Presbyterians love to abbreviate and use acronyms as we navigate life in councils and in relationship.  This tendency can obfuscate communication.  Below I humbly offer a simple list of common acronyms used during General Assembly meetings which may be helpful.  If you have more to add or acronyms that you’d like to have defined – simply comment and I’ll add more.

The main roles of participants of any assembly are:

TEC = Teaching Elder Commissioner         

Elected by presbyteries, teaching elders (aka, Ministers of Word and Sacrament), have voice and vote in committee meetings as well as any business meeting of ...

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May 16, 2014

First Look: Representation at the 221st General Assembly

In just a few weeks, Commissioners and Advisory Delegates from all across the US and Puerto Rico will gather in Detroit for the 221st General Assembly (2014).  Presbyteries determine who most of the folks are who will discern the will of the Living God for the PCUSA making decisions large and small. Many are already praying for these 800+ folks who are busy preparing for the work of the 14 assembly committees and attending to the wider business before the larger body. I'll focus on Teaching Elder Commissioners in this first post.


In looking at the chosen ...

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