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A Letter from the Pastor to Presbytery

Once More, with Feeling!
July 12, 2012

Last week I wrote you daily with updates from the General Assembly that was gathered right here in Pittsburgh. I sought to offer pastoral and theological perspectives on events of the assembly, rather than simply repeating what you could read in news stories. I received a number of responses from you indicating gratitude, and for those I in turn express my own gratitude. Knowing that the communications I send your way are proving helpful gives me fuel to keep on going – of course, some of you may well wish that I didn’t have so many words to share with you!

Words are inadequate to express my delight and gratitude for all that the people of our presbytery and neighboring presbyteries did to make this assembly one of the best ever. The hospitality you extended was gold standard southwest PA – which means, in short, better than anywhere else in the country. Every volunteer did us proud.

Our local arrangements leadership team did a superlative job coordinating our welcome. Kudos to them, especially to COLA Chair Eric Dennis whose consistently strong and cheerful leadership kept us on course and moving forward without getting overwhelmed. We need also to express our great thanks to the GA leaders in Louisville and their local staff Sandi McQuiston and Melissa Rossiter who walked alongside us all the way, giving us everything we needed to make our hosting successful.

I was especially mindful of how the undergirding of the entire assembly in prayer helped to sustain its sense of God’s presence. In many ways obvious, and in far more ways less obvious, our prayer team kept pointing the assembly to the fact that we were gathered to do our Lord’s business, and not our own.

It’s hard to describe just how I felt as I sat on the platform in opening worship, watching the beauty of the Body of Christ unfolding before my eyes in ways that I have never seen. I’ve been to plenty of general assemblies, but for the first time I had eyes to see how precious this gathering is – and that was directly because of the fact that we were hosting the assembly. I scanned the choir and instrumentalists, and saw countless faces I know. An army of ushers, most of whom I know personally, were escorting our guests into their places. An amazing liturgy written by people I know and love unfolded the glory of the Lord with true magnificence. Two hundred of my good friends fanned out across the assembly to serve our church the bread of life and cup of salvation, using chalices and patens designed and produced right here in the Burgh. I cannot overstate my personal delight as the assembly joined the choir singing the hymn I was privileged to compose as a commission for the event. And it is impossible to overstate how privileged we were to hear our dear friend, moderator Cynthia Bolbach, deliver a powerful sermon as her final public act as moderator, especially in light of the dreadful fact that she is struggling for her life against a virulent cancer that has confined her now to a wheelchair. You can watch the complete Opening Worship service online. (Viewer alert: the sound level at the beginning of the program is very low, but it rises to normal level around the 15 minute mark, so don’t tune out early!)

Finally, I would like to point you to a pastoral letter from our general assembly leaders, which wraps up the major GA events and points our way forward. I commend it to you as well worth reading.

On a very different and difficult note, this is the final week that our beloved colleagues Karen Battle, Sharon Stewart, and Vera White will be working in the presbytery office. Their contributions to the vitality of our ministry and the joy of our Christian living are beyond telling. We shall miss them more than words can say. Along with them, we grieve the loss of their administrative assistants Sara Hackett and Suzanne McHenry, as well as the loss of receptionist Evelyn Johnson. We commend them all to the Lord’s grace as they move into the next phase of the Lord’s plan for their lives and ministries. I have every confidence that the Lord is going before them, and will bless them greatly wherever they go.

Yours in Christ’s upward call,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, Pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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