When Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart and the Rev. Gregory Bentley, Co-Moderators of the 224th General Assembly (2020), first touched down in Louisville on June 24, 2020, to preside at the first-ever fully online General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), little did they know that they’d be returning to the same spot two years later for another historic first.
When they entered the Presbyterian Center on June 18 — site of the PC(USA)’s first hybrid General Assembly — to assume their final co-moderatorial duties, the colorful and plentiful “Links of Love” were once again there to greet them with the full embrace of a grateful denomination.
“Links of Love,” an initiative that was launched on Jan. 1, 2019, is a simple activity in which individuals, congregations and mid councils are invited to create paper chain links for every gift they make through the Presbyterian Giving Catalog. Although the resulting paper chain was originally intended to be revealed and displayed at the 224th GA in Baltimore, the project’s goal was changed to “circling the earth” when the 2020 Assembly moved entirely online.
Only a modest paper heart and a growing waterfall of paper chain links — representing thousands of feet of Presbyterian generosity across the denomination, country and globe — are currently on physical display at the Presbyterian Center.
“When we look at these links, we see Presbyterians working together in many great partnerships,” said Street-Stewart. “We see God's handiwork in mission. It's at the heart of all we do.”
Now in its eighth year, the Presbyterian Giving Catalog — which is available both in print and online as well as for immediate download in English, Spanish and Korean — is filled with a wide variety of gifts that spread hope and provide help and relief to families and communities in need, including aid for refugees, access to clean water and ways to end hunger.
To date, a total of 38,679 “Links of Love” now measures 1.5 miles toward reaching the ambitious goal of circling the Earth, the equatorial circumference of which is 24,901 miles.
To put the figure into context, 1.5 miles is the equivalent of 22 football fields. Or, to cite one of the Presbyterian Giving Catalog’s most popular items, a family of chickens, 1.5 miles is the equivalent of 26.86 chicken flights, with the chicken’s longest flight on record being 3,600 feet.
“Even though 1½ miles doesn’t seem like much in comparison to the entire Earth,” said William McConnell, DMA, CFRE, interim director, Presbyterian Giving Catalog, “the longest journey begins with the first step.”
As additional shipments continue to come in, Presbyterians are inching link by link toward building a paper chain that will encircle the entire world — a world that will be positively impacted by the gifts that these paper links lovingly represent.
“Love is not just an emotion, it’s devotion,” said Bentley. “It’s not just about how we feel, but how we connect as a body of believers.”
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