I pursued field education at the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) because I was seeking to understand and get close to what I would have called at the time, “the heart of the PC(USA).” As a cliché, first-year seminary student, I anticipated marching in those double doors each day to a new, eternally important task and single-handedly helping the denomination experience some sort of transformation.
While I have been here over the past five months, I have been humbled and grown a deeper sense of the urgency with which we do ministry. I’ve been assisting the denomination’s manager for immigration issues, Teresa Waggener, curate a resource for individuals and congregations feeling called to the work of accompaniment. I have helped plan and prepare worship at the Polity Conference, learning that there is no trick a room full of pastors hasn’t already seen and still the Spirit devotedly moves as the Spirit wishes. And most recently, I have been working with a team on a constitutional musing in the area of validated ministries.
Through these projects, and others, I have slowly been learning what was surely taught to me in my confirmation class at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas: the lifeblood of the Presbyterian church has never been strictly holed up in a cubicle in Louisville, Kentucky. It is in our congregations and our neighborhoods, our schools and our communities.
The heart of the PC(USA) rests in believers who have been transformed by the good news that Christ overcame darkness, hatred, and death so the Spirit could send us out to be doers and proclaimers of this strangely radical hope. The Presbyterian Center might look particularly Presbyterian with its seals and Book of Orders, but it is our collective witness that defines our denomination. We are the ministries happening across the globe in Christ’s name.
I have learned that ministry is not a solo endeavor; there is a reason Christ sent the disciples out in pairs. When we are following God, we need people in our corner, supporting us, taking our phone calls, and implementing the convictions we espouse at General Assemblies, in our homes, and in our pulpits each week.
To me, that’s what we do here—assist local churches with our shared task of ensuring the denomination is faithful to the gospel. In five short months, I have recognized that the PC(USA) is wider and her polity more beautiful than I had ever imagined, and the eternal work we are doing together is greater than any one particular church or office.
Grace Hellweg is serving as a field education student intern in the Office of the General Assembly for the 2016-17 academic year. She is a first-year student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and is an inquirer under care of Carlisle Presbytery.