Presbyterians are invited to send mission teams to the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy as part of an initiative called “Hands & Feet” leading up to the 223rd General Assembly (2018). The assembly is scheduled to meet June 16–23, 2018, in St. Louis.
The goal of the Hands & Feet initiative is to strengthen local and national mission efforts of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by encouraging partnerships and mission involvement with cities hosting the biennial meeting of the General Assembly.
“If we, through new and existing mission and ministry programs, immerse ourselves in St. Louis over the next eighteen months, our General Assembly gathering will be not just a meeting, but a natural extension of our charge to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in action,” says the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly.
Nelson’s vision is that in addition to spending money in hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing venues, Presbyterians participating in General Assemblies would contribute to the welfare of the host community in more significant ways.
“Beginning in St. Louis, we are going in with our hands and our feet to have teach-ins, to learn about the realities of life in these communities,” Nelson says. “We’re going in with hands and feet to do some work.”
Andrew Yeager-Buckley, who is coordinating the Hands & Feet initiative for the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly, is working closely with a local task force in St. Louis. He says the goal is that the General Assembly would “no longer just be a meeting that brings financial benefit to a community, but that it would bring a more lasting impact.”
The Reverend Erin Counihan, moderator of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, says people in her presbytery are excited about working in partnership with the denomination on this initiative.
“We look forward to making new relationships, serving alongside others, and sharing what God is already doing in this place,” she says.
Counihan says there will be opportunities for visiting mission teams to serve in hunger outreach, urban gardening, rural flood relief, and more. AMEN St. Louis (A Ministry Embracing the Neighborhood), which operates out of a building next to Oak Hill Presbyterian Church, where Counihan is pastor, is already offering weeklong community ministry experiences for visiting groups.
The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy has worked through a series of “Sacred Conversations on Race + Action,” based on workshops with congregations following the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. “We hope to share that opportunity with Presbyterians who come here to serve and to learn,” Counihan says.
Yeager-Buckley says planners of Hands & Feet are working with local leaders in the St. Louis area to identify mission opportunities. “We don’t want to recreate work that’s already happening,” he says. “We want to do things that are faithful and truly needed.”
He hopes Presbyterians who participate in mission in St. Louis will be empowered “to look at their own communities in new ways and find ways to meet the needs back home.”
Volunteer opportunities are available for groups starting this May and the initiative will be officially launched during this summer’s Big Tent conference.
The Hands & Feet initiative will continue in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the 224th General Assembly (2020), and in Columbus, Ohio, for the 225th General Assembly (2022).
“We are calling on Presbyterians to be part of all that we are doing in these cities in the days to come, so that we might be able to see transformative change, not just of these cities but of the church of Jesus Christ,” Nelson says.
More information about Hands & Feet is available at www.pcusa.org/handsandfeet.