Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Visual impressions of General Assembly in San Jose

It has been almost two months since I was in San Jose for the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). There has been a lot going on, and I am not back up to speed with my blogging, but I wanted to share some of the things I saw while in San Jose.

photograph of crape-myrtle blooms in San Jose

When I arrived in San Jose one of the first things that caught my eye was the crape-myrtle that was blooming everywhere. These trees with beautiful purple flowers lined the streets throughout the city and especially in the area around the convention center.

photograph of empty meeting hall for 218th General Assembly of PCUSA

One of the first things I did after checking into my hotel and registering at the Assembly was to visit the meeting hall and find my assigned seat. As a corresponding member of the General Assembly my seat was about twenty rows ahead of the place where I used to sit, but still behind the black curtain that separated the voting commissioners and advisory delegates from the rest of us. There was a lot still being set up in the meeting hall. A few commissioners had found their seats and were doing some meeting preparation. The photo of the empty hall above was taken from the spot where I would sit during the meetings of the Assembly.

photograph of 218th General Assembly at worship in meeting hall

Of course, when the hall was full of people the view would be very different, such as when the Assembly was at worship.

photograph of Committee 06 at work during 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

On Sunday evening, Monday, and Tuesday I sat with Committee 06, the Form of Government Revision Committee. A Task Force had prepared a proposed revision to the Form of Government (part of our Church's Constitution). I was with this Committee to give them the advice of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution. Many presbyteries had sent overtures to the Assembly asking for different things to be done with the so-called FOG Report.

On Monday morning I gave this committee a twenty-minute presentation with PowerPoint, helping them to understand the options they had. The Committee (and I) made the news.

In the end, this committee recommended that the report be referred to an augmented Task Force to report back to the next General Assembly.

The photo above was taken from my assigned seat when the committee was meeting. Far away at the front of the room (and to the left of the projection screen) the woman in the white sweater was Carol Hunley, an elder commissioner from Pittsburgh Presbytery. A recent news story this week announced that Carol is one of the members who were added to the Task Force to prepare the FOG report for the next Assembly.

photograph of past moderator Jack Rogers participating in debate

During the meetings of the Assembly there was a camera crew ready to focus a camera on members of the Assembly when they were speaking at microphones. The images of the speakers would appear on one of the large projection screens at the front of the meeting hall. I got used to paying attention to the pictures of speakers, and the amplified sound of what they were saying. At one point in a debate, I noticed that I was hearing an odd echo. Past Moderator Jack Rogers was speaking to the Assembly. I realized then that Microphone 10 was about fifteen feet to my right and that what I was hearing were his spoken words followed after a very short delay by the amplified version of what he was saying.

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