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Greetings, Columbia Seminary Alumni/ae and Friends! Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The 222nd General Assembly of the PC(USA)was convened for a week in the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, June 2016. The theme was The Hope in our Calling. Since that meeting I have heard several GA commissioners give assembly reports most of which I found hopeful. I’d like to share my own personal encounter of hope in Portland with you.
I traveled to the General Assembly to host a seminary luncheon in one of the convention ballrooms for about 100 Columbia Seminary alumni/ae and friends attending the meeting. One item on my pre-event preparation check list that always makes me nervous was setting up the audio-visual equipment for presentation during the lunch gathering. Therefore, I was glad if not also a bit intimidated to see the information technologist provided by the center walk into the large ballroom space well before noon. He looked like IT to me. No tie or suit, he was dressed “practically” and he appeared to be all business. How’s that for profiling!
“You must be the IT person. You look intelligent!” I mused. “I am the IT person,” he replied, and he began connecting all the wires. I learned this stranger’s name was Mark and that our equipment had a connection problem, my laptop was not getting along with his audio box. Mark left the room in search of another piece of hardware that could reconcile the problem. He promised that he’d return soon and he did and our power connection issue was resolved. When I asked what he liked about his work, Mark replied, “I get satisfaction from helping people solve their problems.”
When asked if he lived in the local area, Mark pulled out of his wallet a photo revealing his wife and two teenage children with whom he lived in Portland. What the photo did not show but Mark shared was his Native American lineage going back several generations. Aware that our lunch event was for a theological education institution, he then began to teach me his faith tradition’s rendering of the biblical story of the Fall of humankind. Like ours, the setting is a garden, but the Creator is referred to as Mother Nature tending what appears to be a vast vegetable garden. Instead of a forbidden fruit bitten, it’s a bottomless pit in the ground resulting from Mother Nature’s extraction of a giant turnip. A wandering child ventures too close and falls into the abyss of darkness. There is no escape or sight in or out of the hole. However, there is voice recognition from above and below, his cries are heard and answered with Her provision for living.
After our “southern fried chicken lunch” in the Great Northwest concluded and everyone left the room, Mark returned to reclaim his equipment. I thanked him for his help in solving my IT problems and told him how much I had enjoyed meeting and talking with him. Mark said it was his pleasure. Three thousand miles from home, for less than an hour, in a convention center ballroom far from the main meeting area, I had a hopeful encounter.
In cultivating faithful leaders for God’s changing world, Columbia Seminary believes in and is committed to encountering God in everyday life and work. With each of you in your respective ministries, I am pleased to reclaim the truth of John’s Gospel: that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth: we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father; from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace (John 1:14,16 RSV).
Randy Calvo ’81