Headed to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 222nd General Assembly (2016) in June? Be sure to pack your favorite mission T-shirt.
Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons is encouraging all Presbyterians attending the assembly, June 18–25, in Portland, Oregon, to wear a mission T-shirt on Thursday, June 23. It could be a shirt from a youth mission trip, a congregational project such as Habitat for Humanity, or a social justice advocacy event.
“We hope to show the varied, colorful, rich, diverse ways that Presbyterians help people every day,” Parsons says.
The plan for a mission T-shirt day was sparked by the 2014 Annual Statistical Report, which gathers data from PC(USA) congregations on membership, worship attendance, giving, and other topics. Parsons says he was amazed by the response to this question: “How many people does your church serve beyond its membership?”
Based on the 40 percent of congregations responding, the survey revealed that, on average, each church served 814 people beyond its membership.
In other words, says Parsons, “in 2014, roughly 1.7 million Presbyterians touched the lives of more than 8 million people beyond themselves.”
This was something to celebrate, thought Parsons and other leaders in the Office of the General Assembly. But how?
The answer came to Parsons when he was looking in his closet and noticed several mission T-shirts, including one from a youth group trip he led as a pastor many years ago. It occurred to him that many Presbyterians probably have one or more mission T-shirts stashed away in closets and drawers. “It seems to be a pretty common souvenir for mission trips.”
Inevitably there will be some people who forget to bring a mission T-shirt to General Assembly. And others may not hear about mission T-shirt day until after they arrive in Portland.
No worries, Parsons says. There will be T-shirts available for purchase in the assembly exhibit hall from a variety of mission and advocacy groups, including Presbyterians for Just Immigration.
Parsons says the annual report’s findings about mission involvement give him hope for the future of the PC(USA).
“Presbyterians really care about others, and they believe in putting their faith to work,” he says. “Despite challenges of declining resources and membership, we’re still a vital church.”