Led by glorious closing worship music provided by Charleston, S.C.-based St. James Presbyterian Church choir, Presbyterians concluded their Big Tent experience Aug. 3 dancing. 

The choir, under the direction of Charles A. McDonald, got hundreds of hands clapping and dozens of feet tapping with “Every Praise” and “Days of Elijah.” 

The choir offered up “Every Praise” while children placed bread and juice on the communion table.

 In her sermon, the Rev. Pam Driesell, senior pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, focused on a Cambodian phrase she learned while visiting her son there while he was serving in the Peace Corps: “same same but different.” The phrase describes the feeling one gets after travel, or even after an encounter with the holy: Outside, we’re the same person we were but inside, something has changed. 

She was so taken with the phrase that she slapped it on a T-shirt.

Driesell got the “same same but different” feeling following a very strenuous hike with her son up a Cambodian mountain. The prize was a picturesque old temple, and the monks who lived there. Her son was particularly moved, telling his mother, “They know something I don’t.” 

“Maybe Jesus sent out the disciples so they can remember they are the least of these — and so are we,” Driesell said. “We are as vulnerable and needy as anybody else.”

Charleston, S.C.-based St. James Presbyterian Church choir

Charleston, S.C.-based St. James Presbyterian Church choir led music at closing worship. —Danny Bolin

Like the disciples, Driesell learned while in Cambodia to eat what was placed in front of her, to be “culinarily courageous.” 

It’s hard for Western Christians “to begin at a place of vulnerability, putting ourselves in a position that we have to receive from others,” she said. Then she quoted Brené Brown: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” 

“I don’t like vulnerable,” Driesell said. “I prefer competent, intentional and strategic. Come on — don’t you? Nothing is wrong with those, but I don’t think they are God’s first thing.” 

Big Tent, Aug. 1-3, is a celebration of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.” It’s composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.