Today, I celebrated worship at Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit. The church was a few blocks away from our convention center, so many of us met at the center and walked over to the church. I tagged along with my roommate, Molly Smathers, and her presbytery who went together to that service since my presbytery kind of did their own thing for worship. Molly is from Jacksonville, so her presbytery neighbors mine and so it was almost like being with mine. But I digress.
Reflecting back on the service, I can honestly say that it was one of the best church services I have ever been to (not counting worship services at conferences). There were just so many things right going on in that service. Even though the service ran at almost two hours, I did not once wish I was somewhere else. I loved the liturgy.
The minister brought in a rabbi and a Muslim imam to speak, making the service interfaith. Coming from a very Southern, rural area, I haven't had a lot of experience with interfaith and I definitely want to experience it more. I want to be friends with the rabbi, her name is Rabbi Alissa Wise and she is really awesome. She works for peace and dialogue between faith traditions. She told us that in her faith tradition, each generation writes their own Torah. She hopes that this generation will write an "interfaith Torah where the rhetoric of inclusivity be the only words." How beautiful is that?
Imam Abdullah El-Amin spoke of how God has many names to different faith traditions, but all have the same creator. He pointed out that God created us differently to know one another and grow. He said, "life would be very boring if we were all the same." Both Imam Abdullah and Rabbi Alissa spoke to us in their religion's language--Arabic and Hebrew respectively. I thought it was beautiful to hear. I kind of wish our pastors would speak in Greek or Hebrew in services, they learn it in seminary after all.
The Reverend Sharon L. Mook thinks that Pentecost should be thought of as more of a season than just a one Sunday observance. She raised the question: "Was Pentecost a miracle of the ear or of the tongue?" That is, could everyone hear what the others were saying in their own language or did everyone speak other languages? Essentially, she said that listening to each other is the message of Pentecost.
The special music during the offertory consisted of children performing from the Open Door ministries, a program that provides enrichment to the lives of underprivileged children. The kids used hand motions and lip synced along to a recording. It sounds super cheesy, but the joy and earnestness on the kids' faces made it a beautiful performance.
Also, I really loved the doxology that Rev. Mook used and how she introduced the Lord's Prayer. The doxology was to the tune of "All Creatures of Our God and King," with lyrics similar to the traditional one, but consisting of inclusive language. She introduced the Lord's Prayer by encouraging folks to say the prayer in whichever language is most comfortable and by saying that forgives us our "debts," "trespasses," and "sins" are all fine and left it up to the individual person. She then starting the prayer saying either "Lord God" or "Holy God" and then stepping back from the mic which allowed for people to say the Lord's Prayer however they chose.
As you can tell, I loved this service.
Once the service ended, I went with Molly and her presbytery to lunch. I really enjoyed meeting them (they're a fun group) and actually learned a lot about our denomination from them. I guess that's what happens when you get Presbyterians together--you talk church history. One man from Puerto Rico used to be in charge of all the Latin American missions and coordinated the churches. I'd like to research Presbyterianism in Latin America more.
After church and lunch, we convened back at the convention center for plenary. In plenary, we discussed modern day discrimination, installed Larissa Kwong Abazia as the vice moderator, recognized missionaries, learned more about the Belhar confession, considered synod reconfiguration, reflected on immigration policies, and discussed changing ordination standards. Once we finished that, we had dinner and then went to our committee meetings for the first time.
My committee is Environmental and Immigration Issues. Tonight we just introduced ourselves and approved the agenda. We began to become acquainted with parliamentary procedure (which I already know from YAAD orientation and being in a sorority for three years). I'm hoping that the future committee meetings won't take as long as tonight, but that hope will probably be for naught. It's crazy how many different opinions people can have about issues. We didn't even talk about any of the overtures and already people were bringing up a lot of varying concerns.
Tomorrow and Tuesday will be full of committee meetings. Wednesday is when we'll reconvene for plenary to vote on the big stuff. Wish all of us luck!