Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

let there be light (photos from #GA220)

I love to ‘document’ an event, to tell its story, through photography. I actually had someone say to me once, on a trip to the Sea of Galilee, “Why don’t you put down your camera and enjoy a bit?”

To which I responded, photography is how I ‘enjoy a bit.’

let there be light, Pittsburgh
© 2012 erin dunigan

More #GA220 photos are available in my 220th General Assembly Gallery.

As a ‘tentmaking evangelist’ photography is also one of the ways I earn my living. So, though I love to share my photos freely to help those not present get to ‘experience’ an event such as the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly, I also exist in a world where I need to continue to fund that life.

There are basically three ways that takes shape:

1. You are welcome to order prints of any of the images from General Assembly (or other events) on my website.

2. If you are an individual/blogger please feel free to use any images for your blog, but please credit them. If you are a church/presbytery/institution/organization I am happy to discuss usage rights (for the web or print) and provide you access to high resolution images. Contact me at erindunigan (at) gmail (dot) com for more info.

3. If you’d like to hire me to come shoot images of your church/event/presbytery/organization I’m happy to discuss this with you. Contact me at erindunigan (at) gmail (dot) com for more info.

on #GA220 : take me out of the ballgame?

The thing is, I could have gone to the ballgame. Baseball. Pirates vs. Astros. The Pirates ended up winning, on a home run, in extra innings. I could have gone. There was an extra ticket.

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.

on #GA220 or, how did i become *that* person…?

It struck me, sitting at LAX, waiting for my flight to Pittsburgh. What is this emotion I’m feeling? It’s one I’ve felt before. Oh wait, I know what it is…giddy. Giddy? Yep, giddy.

That was not the disturbing part, necessarily. The disturbing part was the object of the giddiness, which, I realized, to my astonishment, was the Presbyterian General Assembly.

Yes, of course, I do say that somewhat in jest.  But as a ‘West coast Presbyterian’ (it’s own breed…just ask Tod Bolsinger if you don’t believe me) admitting one’s excitement at attending the national gathering of Presbyterians is something like admitting to wearing socks with your flip flops. It is just not done–at least not publicly.

But I realized, in my pondering, that giddy is exactly the right word.

The thing is, this will be my fourth General Assembly. Compared with many who will be in attendance, that makes me a new kid on the assembly. But, it’s also long enough to have gained an understanding of ‘perfecting the motion’ and ‘amending the perfected motion’ and other such GA speak. For the fourth time, I will be reporting on the Assembly (with the Presbyterian Outlook) and photographing it, attempting to ‘capture’ the experience for those who are not having the giddy privilege of attending.

In the Presbyterian circles in which I was raised, General Assembly was, at best, something to be tolerated, but never to be celebrated. If anything, it was the tangible representation of a top heavy institution that was concerned about its own survival and out of touch with what was ‘really happening’ in the world, and rife with political infighting. Plus, it was stuffy and somewhat geeky.

It is not that those accusations are entirely false—the Presbyterian Church is, after all, an institution, and as such, it, at some level, has to be concerned with its own survival. The assembly can be somewhat geeky, in that ‘decent and orderly’ presbyterian way. There can even  be moments of stuffiness.  And, yes, political infighting seems to be the way of the world—in the church just like in the wider culture.

So, why the giddiness?

Because this gathering, since my first attendance in Birmingham, Alabama in 2006 (I came back early from Europe to attend, which should have been my first warning), has also come to represent, for me, friendship, community and a sense of common mission and purpose, even in spite of our ‘differences’ that we seem so intent on trying to amputate from the body.

I love seeing people, those who have become friends, that I interact with on twitter or facebook but only see in person every two years. I love observing the, yes, nerdy presbyterian process at work, and marveling that I am a part of this institution, even as I often find myself at the far outlying boundaries of it. I love that there is such a concern for the world and its people—that is what the fighting, I would hope, really boils down to—a love that wants the best, even as it disagrees as to what the best actually is.

So, here I find myself. In Pittsburgh. And looking forward to soaking in the Presbyterian punch. At least for a week.