Presbyterians both young and young at heart gave thanks and offered up effusive and heartfelt praise Saturday during a 28-minute final plenary that brought the 225th General Assembly to a joyous close.
Following a brief thank you by the Office of the General Assembly to the Covid Advisory Team, Young Adult Advisory Delegate Adriana Soto-Acevedo of the Presbiterio de San Juan set the tone for Saturday’s celebration by speaking on behalf of the 60 or so YAADs who attended the first hybrid assembly in the history of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“We are grateful for the space we have been provided so our voices could be heard,” Soto-Acevedo said. Through both joy and sadness, “we knew the Holy Spirit was moving around us. Even in moments of disagreement, the influx of support, compassion, grace and love was very clear.”
And to Co-Moderators the Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis and the Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace: “The way you handled these discussions was a great example of that,” Soto-Acevedo said. “Your spiritual leadership during times of discomfort and heaviness was especially meaningful.”
As “a shoutout” to the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, YAADs presented a $525 donation to The Bail Project, which benefited from Thursday’s Hands & Feet event. “We thank you again for the space you provide us YAADs,” Soto-Acevedo said. “We hope you accept our humble offering.”
“I pray through the discomfort and disappointment, you heard our encouragement to keep being a voice and presence of this Church,” Santana-Grace told the YAADs gathered online. “Know that you are loved, cherished and respected.” Then Santana-Grace turned to Starling-Louis and exclaimed, “I want a YAAD party!”
“The world,” Starling-Louis told YAADs, “needs your whole authentic truest down-to-the-toenails self. You’re not here by accident.”
“What we have just experienced together during this assembly like no other was made possible by the hard work of an amazing cast of staff and volunteers,” said Kerry Rice, deputy Stated Clerk in the Office of the General Assembly. Rice proceeded to name a long list of contributing people and organizations, from the host Mid-Kentucky Presbytery to the people backstage who made the plenaries possible. At the very end of the final plenary, those who worked behind the scenes were successfully coaxed into taking the stage and soaking in applause.
Rice offered special thanks to the Co-Moderators. “You moderated with grace and compassion,” he said, “while you managed a thousand inputs simultaneously.”
Then it was time for Nelson to speak.
“We are a denomination to be proud of because of what we allowed the Lord to do through us,” Nelson said. “We would not stop or postpone, and it takes dedicated people to make that happen.”
Nelson too thanked “young people who have made a commitment to this church and to their faith. These young people stood on their commitments and were a part of moving the General Assembly in new directions — even in times when you didn’t get what you were asking for, but you stayed at the table because this is your church.”
“You could have been other places,” Nelson told the assembly’s youngest advisory delegates. “But you were here in this place.”
Nelson heaped special praise on the assembly’s parliamentarian, the Rev. Tricia Dykers Koenig; the Co-Moderators; the Committee on the Office of the General Assembly; and for Rice, “our right-hand man.”
“We are truly blessed. Let us not forget that,” Nelson said, promising that “we’re going to work hard to make this church what it always has been — a church that walks by faith in all things.”
As they did to open the first plenary on Tuesday, the Co-Moderators read The Romero Prayer. Then they said together the words many people were waiting for: “The 225th General Assembly is now adjourned!”
To see replays of plenaries and worship services, go here.