Part of the experience of attending a General Assembly is sampling the local flavor of the area while also seeing how various PC(USA) churches and mission organizations are serving that community. Opportunities are plentiful to engage in cultural and mission trips while at the Assembly in Pittsburgh. Here are the opportunities that still have space for those who are interested:
Monday, July 2:
The first mission tour, departing at 8 a.m. and returning at 4 p.m., will be to three different exhibits:
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary’s Kelso Bible Lands Museum, which has ceramic, stone, metal and organic artifacts from prehistoric to early Islamic times. Faculty from the seminary will be on hand to enhance a visitor’s theological understanding of the museum. Visitors can see the seminary archives containing photographs, rare manuscripts and the desk of Karl Barth.
Rodef Shalom Congregation, the oldest Jewish sanctuary in western Pennsylvania, offers the Biblical Botanical Garden—home to more than 100 trees and herbs valued by the ancient Israelites.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum has an exhibit about Henry Highland Garnet, an abolitionist who escaped from slavery, became educated and rose to prominence as a nationally known Presbyterian minister and powerful speaker. The cost for this mission tour is $48.
The second mission opportunity is a chance to spend the day relaxing in God’s beautiful creation at Crestfield Camp and Conference Center, located an hour north of Pittsburgh in Slippery Rock, Pa. Visitors can choose to scale the indoor climbing wall, canoe on Slippery Rock Creek, ride the zip line, enjoy typical camper’s pursuits like swimming, crafting, or archery, or simply spend time relaxing outside. The cost of $27 includes transportation, lunch, all activities, a hayride and a T-shirt.
The third mission opportunity, which begins at 1 p.m., is a chance to see some of the new church developments (NCD) in Pittsburgh Presbytery. Visit the two newest NCDs—The Upper Room and House of Manna, as well as hear firsthand from the leaders of Pittsburgh’s other strong NCDs, The Open Door, Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, African Christian United Fellowship, and Pittsburgh Vietnamese Presbyterian Fellowship. Exciting mission initiatives, such as the Open Hands Housing Ministry and Garfield Farms, an innovative idea for inner-city urban farming, will also be presented. The cost for this tour is $27.
The final mission opportunity is a special lecture and exhibit on Presbyterian history at the Senator John Heinz History Center, located just a short walk from the Convention Center. The history of Presbyterians is deeply embedded in the history of America, particularly so in western Pennsylvania. The History Center has an exhibit on Presbyterian history, and local historian Peter Gilmore will give a lecture on Presbyterian history. The cost for this event is $27.
Tuesday, July 3:
Tuesday offers another opportunity to explore the area north of Pittsburgh, which is filled with Amish fields and Presbyterian colleges. This trip, which costs $53, will view old Order Amish farmlands, plus Westminster and Grove City colleges. The day concludes with a stop at the Wendell August Forge, America’s oldest and largest forge, producing hand-wrought ornamental metal-ware.
The Heritage and Renaissance City Tour ($42) visits a number of historic Presbyterian churches within the city limits—First Presbyterian Church, in downtown Pittsburgh, Shadyside Presbyterian Church and Third Presbyterian Church, both in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, and East Liberty Presbyterian Church. This tour also has stops at the Duquesne Incline, a cable car that allows visitors to climb Mount Washington for a panoramic view of Pittsburgh, Station Square, a train station that has been changed into a quaint shopping venue, and the historic Fort Pitt Museum and Blockhouse in Point State Park.
Uniquely Speaking is the title of the tour of Pittsburgh’s multi-cultural neighborhoods and mission agencies ($42). Those who opt for this tour have the opportunity to explore some of Pittsburgh’s most interesting neighborhoods while learning about Pittsburgh Presbytery’s unique mission agencies. The Neighborhood Academy is a holistic college-prep school breaking the cycle of generational poverty for students in grades 8 -12. Tour Bidwell United Presbyterian Church and see presentations from the North Side Common Ministries, which operates and emergency shelter for homeless men, a food pantry, and a permanent housing program for men with disabilities, and North Hills Community Outreach, which provides services for struggling families. North Hills won the 2011 Alfred W. Wishart, Jr. Award for excellence in nonprofit management.
Independence Day begins with the opportunity to tour the University of Pittsburgh’s Nationality Rooms, special classrooms that represent the ethnic or cultural heritage of 26 nations, and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, one of the region’s most vibrant, thriving cultural attractions. This tour begins at 9:30 a.m. and the ticket price is $37.
Thursday, July 5:
Thursday dawns with a prayer walk from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in downtown Pittsburgh. This will be a directed journey through downtown Pittsburgh, departing from the front porch of First Presbyterian Church and ending at the Convention Center. Although this event is free, participants will need to order a ticket to participate.
Western Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands—approximately an hour or more east of Pittsburgh—will be on full display during this tour with highlighted stops at Fallingwater, a home designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Oakhurst Smorgasbord and Dessert Table, which serves over 30 hot items and desserts made from scratch, and the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., which commemorates the actions of 40 passengers and crew who thwarted an attack on the U.S. Capitol on September 11, 2001. Cost of this tour, which departs at 8 a.m., is $69.
Presbyterian Senior Care’s award-winning Woodside Place and Hanna Health Care Center round out the mission tour opportunities. Presbyterian Senior Care offers a full range of services for persons with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias. Combining an innovative philosophy of care with unique design features, Woodside’s models gives residents with dementia a more flexible yet secure living environment than traditional care settings. Hanna Healthcare Center is a unique skilled nursing environment where residents are served by the familiar faces of permanently assigned staff. This tour is completely accessible to those with disabilities. It departs at 10 a.m., and costs $16.