ABC’s for GA
A reporter’s tongue-in-cheek guide to the 220th General Assembly
June 29, 2012
The 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (United States of America) is a mouthful of a title for the week-long meeting about to convene here June 30 in the Golden Triangle where, along its southern tip, the Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny River along one shore and the Monongahela River along the other.
To help get you ready, a few ABCs for the upcoming 220th GA:
A – Arrival. A welcome event, especially if one’s travels have experienced more trials and tribulations than during all of Sinbad’s seven voyages combined. Then, again, arrival challenges may pale in comparison to the challenges posed during the crafting and adoption of some recommendation.
B – Bolbach, as in Cindy, our out-going Moderator. Speaking of challenges, none compare to her personal battle with cancer; we all send our thoughts, prayers and continuing good wishes her way.
C – Committee. Despite much empirical evidence to the contrary, the “C” in PC(USA) does not stand for Committee.
D – Delegate (official term “commissioner” but, hey, that letter’s already taken). Young and old or not-so-young and not-so-old, the GA delegates wouldn’t be here if they didn’t care.
E- Evangelism. The age-old quest: how to make religion in general, and our denomination in particular, as meaningful a Spiritual experience as possible.
F – Fireworks. Where will they be more spectacular this year: in the Committee rooms or in skies over Pittsburgh?
G – Guides. A shout-out to the volunteer guides from the within-and-around this uniquely diverse city, once referred to by the New York Times as “the Galapagos Islands of American dialect.”
H- the last letter in Pittsburgh – A decree from the United States Board of Geographic Names took it away in 1890; the raucous hue and cry from the populace raised such uproar that the “H” was restored in 1911.
I – Internet. The quickest way to follow GA proceedings is by logging on then logging into https://www.pc-biz.org.
J - Journalists. This is the term for those of us reporting for the General Assembly News daily newspaper. We used to be known as “ink-stained wretches,” but typewriters have gone the way of rotary telephones (and, sadly, too many newspapers.)
K- Kielbasa. Just one of the many dietary delights of the local food group, heavily influenced by the Steel City’s heritage of Germans, Poles, Slavs and other Eastern Europeans. No doubt it’s served with another famous item from the local food group which helped make its local purveyor world-famous: Heinz ketchup.
L – Lemieux, as in Mario, the fabled star of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Hockey Hall of Famer first he gained fame leading the Pens to three Stanley Cup titles in the National Hockey League (fittingly, in 1898 Pittsburgh became the home to the world’s first artificial ice rink). After beating Hodgkin’s disease and returning to the ice, he saved the team from folding, becoming one of the few player-owners in the history any sport.
M- Massage. This action is taken not only by many delegates at the end of the day to relieve their sore feet, but it’s also an action taken by many delegates during committee proceedings with amendments and language that are deemed “sore points.”
N- Nuance. In the context of amendment writing, it’s the cardinal rule of How to say what you want to say without saying it in a way that continues to cause delay.
O – Order, Book of. It’s the ultimate destination for all the overtures, recommendation and Amendments.
P – Plenary Sessions. Perhaps they inspired Eugene O’Neill to write A Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Q – Quaff. After a long day (and often long night) of building up a healthy thirst doing God’s work, it’s what one does to quench that thirst, in a variety of flavors.
R – Robert’s Rules of Order. Often mistaken as the third spoke of Presbyterian polity, Robert’s provides a handy guide for navigating the oft’ tempest-tossed waters of a plenary session. Legend has it that, in days gone by, hard-bound editions of Robert’s were occasionally tossed by proponents of one particular position at proponents of opposing positions.
S – Steel. It’s the industry that helped put Pittsburgh on the map and which lent its name – and logo – to the city’s team in the National Football League. During World War II, when the Steelers combined operations with the Philadelphia Eagles, the sportswriter shorthand for their combined team’s name, The Steagle, was borrowed by author Irvin Faust for one of his novels.
T - Twenty-One. “21” was the number worn by the great Pirates’ right fielder and eventual baseball Hall of Famer, Roberto Clemente. Tragically killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972, while delivering humanitarian aid to Nicaraguan earthquake survivors, there has been a move to honor Clemente’s humanitarianism by retiring his number 21 throughout all of professional baseball in the same way Jackie Robinson’s number 42 was retired.
U – Up hill. Take one of the two inclined railways “up hill” to visit some of the local neighborhoods as well as get a great view of the Allegheny Plateau and surrounding countryside.
V – View. One reason that, on a clear day, you can see for miles and miles and miles from “up hill” is the fact that Pittsburgh was at the forefront of the clean-air movement, erasing its decades-long image of a dark, smoke-covered city.
W – Witherspoon. Not only does it seem like everyone from that street back in Louisville is here in Pittsburgh, it also the name of a Tuesday evening fun event.
X – Xacto knife. Yes, it’s an art supply. No, you can’t carry it on board the plane.
Y – Yinzers. To quote www.Wikipedia.en.com : “The Pittsburgh English dialect, commonly called Pittsburghese, was influenced by Scots-Irish, Welsh, German, Central European and Eastern European immigrants. Locals who speak the dialect are sometimes referred to as ‘Yinzers’ (from the local word "yinz" [var. yunz], a blended form of "you ones", similar to "y'all" and "you all" in the South).”
Z- ZZzzzzzz. What delegates don’t want to be caught on camera doing during plenary sessions!
Jim Nedelka works for a major media company in New York City. Celebrating his 30th anniversary as an ordained ruling elder, he recently became a member of Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House on Manhattan’s East Side, the church where his father’s parents were married in June 1926. He is a regular contributor to Presbyterian News Service.