But instead, I chose to stay.
Staying, in this case, meant attending two events of the 220th PCUSA General Assembly back to back—one hosted by one of the more conservative/evangelical groups within the denomination, the other, one of the more liberal/progressive. It occurred to me, as I was walking from the first to the second, that in attending both I was, as it were, in a fairly small subset of the wider Assembly population.
It’s a subset that I find myself in quite often, actually, mainly due to my work, as a writer and photographer, for many ‘wings’ of the Presbyterian Church. But it’s also one I’ve chosen to occupy, as it were.
Most of the time, it’s a choice that I am happy to make.
But last night, after two encounters with fear, suspicion and distrust of the ‘other’—the first from the more conservative side, the second from the more liberal one, I wondered. Why bother? Why not just leave? The sounds coming across the river from the PNC Park and the Pirates game, of the crowd cheering made me question—had I made the right decision, am I making the right decision? Why not just go to the baseball game?
It was a far place from the ‘giddiness’ I felt as I began this journey to Pittsburgh. Was it a more ‘realistic’ place, this weariness and wondering, than the giddiness? Many would say so. Many would say that the giddiness, and its related hope, are at best optimistic, more likely naive. They may well be right.
As I left the second of the two events I was disheartened to the point of almost choking up. Frustrated by the fear. Discouraged by the distrust. Saddened by the suspicion.
There is much left of this 220th General Assembly. There is possibility for contention, and lots of it. There is possibility for cooperation, and even celebration.
I’m still here. Partly, because I have to be—I’m working. But more because I choose to be.
Because in spite of our challenges, on all sides of many issues, to love each other well, I trust that God is bigger than all of our differences. I choose to trust in the Triune God who has created us, redeemed us, and continues to sustain us—all of us, liberal, conservative, evangelical, progressive, Pirates fan, Astros fan…
May the peace of Christ, the love of God, and the power of the Spirit be with us all as we begin this Assembly.