In a “normal” General Assembly, the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA) would be preparing for a joint meal together to assess the progress of the General Assembly gathering and say farewell to those rotating off. A one-hour Zoom call had to suffice for members and leadership with the Office of the General Assembly on Thursday.
In their weekly call, members heard from OGA leadership as they prepared for plenary sessions scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Among those attending the meeting for the first time were the Co-Moderators of the 224th General Assembly (2020): The Reverend Gregory Bentley and Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart.
“It is good to see and hear all of you. Many of us have worked together under different titles or hats, but this is how we are assemblying now,” said Street-Stewart. “We need to look past the Zoom gallery and recognize the relationships that have been so fulfilling for so many years.”
Street-Stewart thanked COGA for its commitment to the church and for striving to be the Hands and Feet of Christ.
“I am now hyper-hippopotamus happy and dinosaur delighted,” said Bentley. “Let’s put our hands on the plow and see what God is going to do, so let’s get to work.”
Julia Henderson, OGA’s interim director of assembly operations, briefed committee members on the status of work on the eve of the next plenary.
“We’ve had a great session with our Co-Moderators and a number of people have zoomed in to help provide an overview and orientation of what’s ahead the next two days,” she said. “We are participating in a technology run-through and going through scripts to help prepare them for what we anticipate will come.”
Bentley and Street-Stewart came to Louisville on Wednesday and will be moderating the assembly from the Presbyterian Center with help from production and tech crews.
Henderson says the plenary planning team has been meeting each morning to discuss the items of business so commissioners and advisory delegates will know what is coming up.
Kerry Rice, deputy stated clerk with OGA, said efforts are being made to keep participants safe during the assembly time.
“There are a limited number of people at the Center this week, approximately 20,” he said. “There may be 25 to 30 people here on regular church business, so there’s not a huge crowd here. The building is vast, and it is easy to practice social distancing. People are good at wearing masks and following office rules. Those who gather together for the assembly are all 10-to-12-feet away from each other.”
Henderson says improvements are being made to the parliamentarian toolbox to ensure that commissioners and delegates who are willing to speak have that opportunity.
This would normally be considered the “end of cycle” for COGA’s two-year work. Two committee members will be rotating off. Moderator Barbara Gaddis and former Moderator Margaret Elliott will be leaving.
“A huge thank you for your leadership for your six and eight years with COGA,” said Stephanie Anthony, COGA’s new moderator. “We are so grateful for your participation and commitment to the larger church.”
“Thank you for being luminaries in life and for teaching us how to be church together in really amazing ways,” said COGA member Wilson Kennedy. “We are grateful for what you’ve done for the denomination and the life of this body.”
Warren Lesane, who has been the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board representative on COGA, is also rotating off and will be replaced by Shannan Vance-Ocampo.
COGA will meet again next week to debrief on General Assembly.