Plenary hall becomes a sea of T’s celebrating mission

Commissioners tuck in tails, puff out chests, swap memories

June 24, 2016

Commissioners stand together on Mission T-shirt Day.

Commissioners stand together on Mission T-shirt Day. —Danny Bolin

Portland

Lisa Miller wore her church’s welcome in giant letters that commissioners all around the plenary hall could read easily: “Mi Casa Es Su Casa.”

Hans Hallundbaek sported a mission that he cares deeply  about – prison ministry – on his chest: a picture of Jesus, with the caption: “What is your prison?”

The shirt worn by Denise Anderson, Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), proclaimed: “Black Lives Matter.”

All around the Oregon Convention Center, people responded to Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons’ call for “Mission T-Shirt Thursday.”

Parsons, who presided informally in his blue OGA mission “toolbox” T-shirt, said he came up with the idea of having the commissioners wear their   local mission T-shirts one surprisingly large number of reminders of a lifetime of mission trips.

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Lisa  Miller shows her support for Mission T-Shirt Day. Photo: Danny Bolin

Lisa Miller shows her support for Mission T-Shirt Day. Photo: Danny Bolin

“We wanted to show the breadth and depth of mission that goes on nationally and internationally,” he said. “It’s an inspiring thing.” Miller’s purple T-shirt proclaiming “my house is your house” in Spanish announced that her church, Fairlington Presbyterian in Alexandria, Virginia, has incubator office space available for non- profits. El Salvadorans, in particular, have taken advantage of the offer.

“Our building is outsized,” she said, “and they are our neighbors.” Hallundbaek, a commissioned ruling elder serving The Chapel  at Croton Falls in New York, said prison ministry is important to him because people in prison “know that they’re there, of course, but do we know they’re there?”

Anderson pointed out her own T-shirt and its “Black Lives Matter” message, and told the commissioners, “I look forward to collecting stories about what your T-shirt says.”

She defined mission as “leaving our own comfort and showing up for our neighbor.”

Jo Nelson’s T-shirt commemorated a mission journey her church, Lawrenceville (Georgia) Presbyterian, took to Guatemala earlier this month, where members planted 1,000 trees and built stoves to make cooking more efficient.

Her friend Karen Turney, a ruling elder from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, said she thought the sea of T-shirts at the plenary “shows God’s work in the world.”

“We Presbyterians pray and read scriptures, but these T-shirts show our theology in action,” she said.

Henry Woodall, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Wasilla, Arkansas, wore a T-shirt celebrating a mission his church has often hosted – Upward Challenge, which seeks to deepen attendees’ spirituality.

“The thing for me is, it has shaped a lot of our youth,” Woodall said. “Its mission is to bring the Holy Spirit on the same level as God and Christ.”

Christian Boyd, the stated clerk of the Presbytery of Milwaukee, accompanied a group of young Presbyterians to an urban-mission camp at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, where participants spent time with homeless people and learned how churches and non-profits aid people in need.

The T-shirt chosen by Ron Fike, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City, celebrated his church’s free Tuesday dinners, which typically attract about 60 people, many from outside the church.

“They’re for people who need help with their budgets,” he said. “We enjoy doing local mission.”

Cheyanna Losey, pastor of the United Church of Woodhull in Illinois, wore a T-shirt announcing an important annual event in her community – Vacation Bible School. Every year the town of 800 welcomes more than 100 children to a VBS co-sponsored by the local Lutheran church.

She said she had another, more practical reason for donning that T-shirt Thursday morning: “All  my other T-shirts were too dirty to wear.”

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