Opening worship at the General Assembly. Time for all the bells and whistles – and then some.
Today was the first-ever baptism at a General Assembly. A cute little girl from a Minneapolis church was baptized up there on the platform by her pastor, with the congregation also in attendance to answer the promises. I wonder if she’ll always be known as the General Assembly Baby? And, I wonder what difference it will make in her life to know that her baptism took place in such an unusual way?
There was the Lord’s Supper, as there always is – along with the impressive logistics of serving several thousand people in a matter of minutes (they do it with a whole lot of communion tables scattered throughout the hall).
“People shall come from north and south and east and west...” Presbyterians from round about the Twin Cities and its environs canceled their Sunday services today, and descended on the Convention Center en masse.
Outgoing moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow gave an impressive sermon, all about the need to prepare for the church of the future. One story he told was of sitting at a Presbyterian worship service somewhere, maybe at a presbytery function or in a conference setting, with a teenage girl beside him. A set of bagpipes started to play in the distance, and she leaned over to him and asked, “What’s that instrument?”
There was a time when that sort of question would have been unthinkable in a Presbyterian worship service, among the proud descendants of John Knox and the Covenanters. Those days – if not yet gone – are going fast, Bruce reminded us. And he’s right.
There was a grand procession, with liturgical dancers and giant puppets depicting animals reminiscent of the Native American artistic tradition. Off to one side, an artist spontaneously painted abstract designs on a giant canvas taped to the floor. An overhead camera recorded her work, and broadcast it to us periodically on the giant projection screens.
Music was glorious, and eclectic – from a wide range of cultural traditions. And yes, there were a few great hymns of the church, and a rousing rendition of the famous organ postlude by Widor.
All in all, it was more than any local church could ever hope to have in one of its worship services – at least, not all on the same day (or even year). But, that’s the point. A national gathering like this begs for all the bells and whistles.
One thing about us Presbyterians: when we set our minds to it, we can put together a slam-dunk worship service.