“Eternal God, you call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden through perils unknown,” prayed Cindy Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), at the close of opening worship on June 30. With these words, she sent the commissioners and advisory delegates to the opening plenary session of the 220th GA. In keeping with historic tradition, piper William C. Fife led them to their seats.
The Rev. Sheldon Sorge, executive presbyter of Pittsburgh Presbytery, which is the host presbytery for the Assembly, welcomed all to Pittsburgh. The Committee on Local Arrangements then shared some of the rich history of the region
The highlight? “I got to stand next to Mr. McFeely!” said the Rev. Don Lincoln, assistant platform manager. “It was like the General Assembly became ‘Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood’ for a moment.” Mr. McFeely, a regular character on the long-running children’s TV program, made a special delivery to celebrate the memory of the Rev. Fred Rogers, who was ordained to the ministry of children’s programming in Pittsburgh.
Commissioners and advisory delegates spent the afternoon learning to navigate the business of the Assembly. A flurry of presenters demonstrated the use of the remote voting keypads, the color paddle system used during plenary deliberations, and offered help for the inevitable computer glitches.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, drew laughs when he pointed out, “That voting keypad is not a television remote. And you may not change the channel.”
Addressing the financial aspect of the Assembly, Joey Bailey, chief financial officer for the General Assembly Mission Council, told the commissioners and advisory delegates, “Decisions have financial implications. Ask yourselves, is this important enough to stop doing other ministry and mission work? Is it important enough to raise per capita?”
The opening plenary adjourned by sending commissioners and advisory delegates to the Exhibit Hall for dinner and to experience hands-on the work of the six agencies that make up the General Assembly: the General Assembly Mission Council, the Office of the General Assembly, the Presbyterian Foundation, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, and the Board of Pensions.