Last week, I attended the 2009 General Assembly of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America. This year’s assembly was held in sunny Orlando, Florida at the Coronado Hotel and Convention Center at Walt Disney World. (It’s worth pointing out that the choice of Disney World was made several years ago, long before anyone thought that we might be in a recession. It’s unfortunate that during trying financial times for many churches the assembly was held at a resort but the choice of venues was coincidental.)
I’ll reflect more on individual worship services over the next few days but, for now, a few general comments:
- Joe Novenson of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian outside of Chattanooga did a wonderful job serving as our worship leader (note: in this context, worship leader is not the same as music leader). Every word that he said seemed to be drenched in pastoral love for all gathered.
- Despite one commissioner’s comments insulting Central Florida (in a misguided attempt to be funny), the Central Florida Presbytery did a wonderful job of hosting and of putting the worship services together. Central Florida is a model for the rest of the denomination of what a healthy, church-planting presbytery looks like. I don’t think there’s another presbytery with such a commitment to planting churches in every neighborhood and town of their region. (Would that every presbytery had that commitment!)
- The setup of the room was such that the pulpit was a lectern, flanked by tables with Roberts’ Rules of Order and timekeeper placards, etc. It was an unfortunate bit of symbolism that we were a court before we were a congregation.
- The testimonies were wonderful reminders of God’s faithfulness in lots of different situations.
- In such a large hall, we had phasing problems. Meaning, there was a delay between when the organ played and when the congregation sang. As such, hymns tended to drag (through no fault of the organist).
- Everyone gathered did a good job of singing.
Finally, a brief word concerning some of the criticism that I’ve read online. I will not link to the source(s) but I’ll address some of their concerns. There was a complaint that General Assembly corporate worship was “schizophrenic”; that it was a hodge-podge of lots of different currents within the denomination and was, therefore, poorly led. I could not disagree more. There was a tremendous breadth of music in the assembly, but that breadth was representative of the different congregations within the assembly and within the presbytery. I’ll remark on the individual worship services in a few days but, overall, I was thankful for the variety of expressions. If commissioners were uncomfortable with the mostly contemporary instrumentation, that’s more of a reflection on the age and tastes of the commissioners than a reflection of the denomination as a whole. We have a wide array of styles and expressions of worship and a wide array of musical genres and instruments utilized within the denomination. That’s a great thing. In fact, it’s one of the areas of diversity within our denomination that we can point to and say, “Yes! We do things in different ways but we worship the same Lord!” A General Assembly that reflects that is a good thing.