Plans are under way for the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) set for June 18–25, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. Check out the new assembly web site, featuring this video about the city and the places hope is flourishing there.
“The hope in our calling” – Ephesians 1:18
At Portland we are hosting the 222nd General Assembly. I’m looking forward to having everyone here June 18th through 25th in 2016.
I think part of the attraction of Portland is: it’s the west coast but we’re the Pacific Northwest, it is a beautiful place in terms of what we have naturally, mountains, beach, rivers, fantastic restaurants, interesting shopping, no sales tax. It’s just a great city to live in and to visit.
Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director, Bicycle Transportation Alliance - Don’t come to Portland and rent a car. You don’t need it. It’ll actually slow you down. Number 2, you don’t need to plan very much. There’s just so much going around. Whether it’s food or experiences or parks, just come on out. And if you’re coming before the end of June bring rain gear.
Madi Goldsmith, Community Events Manager, Tabor Space, Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church – There are lots of really amazing things to do and see here. I think that being able to… finding a spot in the city where you can see Mt. Hood really clearly, it’s kind of important. It’s a very beautiful mountain and it just takes over the whole city. Everybody’s in love with it. There are some really amazing missions going on. Downtown in Chinatown, Oldtown - that would be great to check out. There’s the Union Gospel Mission that works with homeless folks. There’s also a completely grassroots community oriented group called Right to Dream Too that provides... it’s homeless run for homeless folks. It’s essentially a tent city just on a little square block downtown. There’s a lot of really impressive community activism going on here that I think anybody who works in ministry and service would, could be, and probably would be inspired to see.
Brian Branigan, Interim Supervisor, Operation Nightwatch Portland – My name is Brian. I’m a supervisor of the hospitality center here. I’m here on the weekends. I have been volunteering at Operation Nightwatch for about 4 ½-5 years. I started doing the supervision part about 6 months ago. I got sober about that period of time ago. This is a... I decided to volunteer as a way to do service work and to be committed to the people around me. There are people who have fallen through the cracks and those people, generally, are not here for all that long. They come down here because this is something for them in their specific need and when people are here and then they’re gone and I know that it’s because they got an apartment at 160th and Powell, that’s a little bit of hope. There’s a lot of hope in that. And that’s… you know, beyond all the fires that we put out, when things actually click keep your eyes open. Miracles happen. They really do, so…
Marvin Mitchell, Executive Director, Julia West House – Hi, I’m Marvin Mitchell. I’m the director of Julia West house which is an outreach of First Presbyterian Church in Portland. One of the main things we do is our literacy. We have basic literacy all the way through GED preparation. And in fact, one of my favorite instances is one day I was on the 3rd floor talking with a tutor and her student, who was a young Russian woman, who was just finishing up her preparation for GED which she took the last test the next week and passed. I came downstairs and in this room here we had a tutor working with a woman in her 60’s doing flash cards on the alphabet, the first half. So we have a full range of literacy training. We’re trying to give people the opportunity to make permanent change by the special needs, the special areas that we’ve focused on (that) we’ve been led to offer.
Edward Hill, Executive Director, Groundwork Portland – My name is Edward Hill and I’m the Executive Director of Groundwork Portland. Groundwork Portland is a nonprofit organization in Portland, Oregon that works specifically on environmental justice issues at the ground level with community. There’s 20 different Groundworks around the nation and each of them is tasked with identifying specific environmental issues in their communities and then addressing those. Either creating initiatives or campaigns or, like at this site, at Green Acres, getting on the ground and actually building things or transforming land, toxic land into healthy land. Portland is a unique city in that there is a, regardless of the differences here, there’s radical difference, there’s a Libertarian sort of entrenched and old Americana Portland and then there’s the new hipster cool liberal Portland and those 2 things have layered. One of the few ways that they are alike is they both value and demand environmental justice. They want their river to be clean. They want to fish. They want to hunt. They want to have snow packs so they can use the mountains. So that they can have the clean water that they’re used to, to be evergreen. Similar to Washington, right? So, the human draw to this area as a nature reserve is where Groundwork, again, there’s an opportunity to stand in that ground and amongst racial, or class, or economic differences everyone loves the environment. Everybody’s working together. There’s… Portland has one of the largest numbers of nonprofits. Nonprofit organizations in the country. So with that focus and that ability to take social justice, cause, focus, goals, and people’s hope to convert what’s toxic now and what has been abused into something that thrives and becomes resilient and sustainable for the community. For all parties.
Linda Stewart-Kalen, Pastor, Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church – I’m Linda Stewart-Kalen. I’m a Teaching Elder, A minister of Word and Sacrament here at Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon. One of the blessings of being a connectional church is that we’ve learned to do things in partnership. And so, our congregation, every ministry that we participate in tends to be in partnership with someone else. So by partnering with other organizations like that we’re able to live out our calling, one of which is to honor diversity and support vulnerable communities and that’s an exciting part of recognizing we are to small to do some things and we are not willing to wait until we are bigger or until we have more resources. Instead we ask, “Where are the resources? Who are the partners that God is sending to us and sending us to that we might be able to accomplish what God has put on our hearts. And I think that this GA gives us opportunities to learn, to celebrate and to recommit our lives to being a church that God is calling forth to exemplify that beloved community that we have been reminded is a part of our legacy and a part of our future.
Donlad Frazier Sr., Pastor, Genesis Fellowship – My name is Donald Frazier. I’m the pastor here at Genesis Community Fellowship and I’ve been in ministry for 26 years. We’re here in northeast Portland on the corner of 27th and Killingsworth and we’ve been serving here for the last 10 to 12 years. Genesis Fellowship is a church that was… It’s beginning was a merger of a predominately African-American church and an all white church and we really wanted to promote reconciliation and race relationships, crossing barriers culturally. This is predominately an African-American community for a long time. When it was gentrified people were given notice and they were moved out toward, in the numbers we called them, in the east. It kind of displaced a number of people and then when the pioneers, or as I call them, these are the entrepreneurs that come in, purchase property, purchased homes. And they’ve come in and really not formed relationships with the people that were here and the people now that are here are feeling like they are kind of treated as, like, has-been artifacts. They really don’t… they’re invisible. There has never been conversations much about how to integrate this whole process. So we are… We believe that we’re here to help that process out by modeling our partnership with Westminster. Because we have a good relationship with Westminster, in this modeling people cross racially, can work together. Particularly in the church. If anyone should be able to be a salt and light here for the community to see how we can work through issues and start the conversation, and do more than have a conversation, but build relationships.
Gregg Neel, Co-moderator, Committee on Local Arrangements, 222nd General Assembly – I think that for, at least here in the Presbytery of the Cascades and particularly in the Portland area, the ‘hope’ is that we are now recognizing that religion is no longer important in people’s lives but that spirituality and understanding something bigger than themselves is really important. so the ‘hope’ is, no matter what the social justice area is that we have an over-arching understanding of where God is calling us but that we say to folks, “Here is where we’re working. Here is where God is calling us. We’re working for peace. We’re working to change poverty in the world.” And so, each of the congregations in the Presbytery of the Cascades is, as well as right here in northwest Portland right here at Westminster, what we pay attention to is where God’s people’s needs are and then we go out and hopefully meet them where they’re at. Not wait for them to come to the door.