The 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been saturated by prayer this week. The Rev. Tammy Wiens and her team have seen to that.
A prayer team, organized through the Pittsburgh Presbytery’s Committee on Local Arrangements, saw to it that prayer at the Assembly was layered and multi-faceted. In addition to a prayer team, identified by their red t-shirts—emblazoned across the back with “We’re praying for Yinz”—there was a prayer room, a quiet chapel, a city prayer walk, a full size labyrinth, prayer boxes and “presence keepers” in prayer in committees during the Assembly.
Wiens, at-large teaching elder from Pittsburgh Presbytery, and Sharon Stewart, presbytery staff, spearheaded this effort. A year of careful planning and plenty of prayer provided for a vibrant and rich experience, not only for the prayer team but also for the many commissioners, staff members, volunteers, observers and exhibitors who benefited from the ministry.
This sense of prayer began well before the few thousand Presbyterians descended on Pittsburgh. The prayer team made bulletin inserts for the presbytery to use, inviting people to pray for those planning and attending the Assembly for forty weeks leading up to the gathering.
Plants, rocking chairs, and fountains were just a few of the elements in the third floor prayer room, creating a quietly festive space where people were encouraged to hope, renew, walk, run and soar in keeping with the Assembly theme from Isaiah 40:31. Inside the room, participants were invited to make a paper dove, use a finger labyrinth, choose a small stone from the baptismal font or rest in a rocking chair.
If one longed for a quieter space, it was provided in a smaller room around the corner. This area was simpler, housing only a circle of chairs, a Bible and a fountain. For a more active prayer activity, one could walk the labyrinth, found nearby. An even more active form was to take the prayer walk, beginning at First Presbyterian Church and weaving through the streets adjacent to the convention center, where people paused along the way to pray for those in the city.
In addition to providing space for GA participants to pray, the prayer team also diligently provided prayer. As Wiens said, “Our role was intercession.” Prayer boxes were around the convention center for people to leave prayer requests. “Toward the end of the week we were working through a hundred or more.” And they did. The prayer volunteers gathered and prayed over each request.
In addition, they had cards with each commissioner’s name written on it. “Each day’s volunteers scooped up a handful of cards and prayed for each commissioner by name,” said Wiens.
The room was “a respite from all the busyness,” she said.