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Everything You Need to Know About General Assembly 2022: “Purified to Proclaim”

Periodically, a group of people from all over the world come together for a unifying event that is so complex it takes four years to plan out. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics. We’re talking about the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). 

Amanda Burton is the Meeting Planner for the PCA Administrative Committee (AC), and her primary role is to plan, coordinate, and execute the General Assembly each year. Whether she’s organizing vendor contracts, partnering with production teams, or printing onsite event books, Amanda has her hands in pretty much every facet of GA.

A self-described, “behind-the-scenes” person, Amanda has faithfully served with the AC for six years and has been involved in the planning and execution of many General Assemblies.

This year, the 49th PCA General Assembly—dubbed “Purified to Proclaim”—will be held in Birmingham, AL, from June 21-24. The theme is inspired by 1 Peter 1:6-7, and the worship keynote speakers include Dr. L. Roy Taylor, Rev. Kevin DeYoung, and Rev. Elbert McGowan, Jr. Registration for the event is now open

Amanda said she is particularly excited for this upcoming GA because of its historical significance.

“Birmingham is essentially the birthplace of the PCA,” she said. “To be able to come here, look back, and see the growth of our denomination and the ways in which the Lord has blessed it is special.”

Four years in the making

According to Amanda, it takes about four years to successfully plan and prepare for a General Assembly, and there are many people involved in the process. Each GA has a host committee made up of volunteers from the local presbytery.

While Amanda and the AC office focus on planning the big picture elements—working with production groups, lining up photographers, and creating signage—the host committee plans the worship services, lines up speakers, plans the women and family events, and organizes volunteers.

“It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ kind of thing,” she chuckled.

For Amanda, the first stage begins with finding a host city, presbytery, and location suitable for the event. This usually involves her talking with a city’s convention and visitor’s bureau to determine whether the city has a hotel or convention center large enough to hold GA.

Next, Amanda and the AC Office work to negotiate pricing with the hotels, which can take anywhere from six months to a year. “We work very hard to try to keep hotel room prices low so that it’s affordable for people to come,” she said. “We want our pastors, ruling elders, and church leaders to be able to attend the General Assembly; it’s really an amazing thing when the denomination comes together like this.”

Once the contracts are signed, the local presbytery starts identifying leaders to be on the host committee. In the meantime, Amanda visits the site to do walk-throughs of the facilities, get familiar with the space, and think through how and where certain events within GA will take place.

A team effort

As you might imagine, it takes many helping hands to plan and pull off General Assembly each year. Virtually all of the members at the Administrative Committee play a role in the annual event.

Amanda estimates that there are around fifty volunteers who help year after year with various aspects of the assembly (like setting up IT, helping with registration, etc.). There’s also a group of about 100 volunteers from the hosting presbytery who serve in a variety of ways throughout GA, whether it’s ushering, serving communion, or printing bulletins.

The AC also has quite a few production group partners who have been helping run GA for almost 15 years. “They’re used to doing our event, and they do it really well,” Amanda said. “It’s a big asset to have someone who knows your event and how it works.”

“It’s a unique event,” she added. “It’s a combination of business meetings, worship services, seminars, and food functions. Having those partners who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience is vital to the success of the General Assembly I think the Lord has provided them and we’re blessed to have those good relationships.”

Final preparations

About a year out, Amanda and the AC Office start working on all the pre-General Assembly information, including an information book that includes the theme. The AC and host committee then work with a graphic designer to create a series of graphics they use to promote the theme.

Next, they work on nailing down details like creating the schedule, figuring out room assignments, and planning seminars.

If you’ve ever been to General Assembly, you know there are a lot of moving pieces. In the beginning of the week, commissioners typically focus on committee meetings, which need to be organized and need their own space set up. After committee meetings, the focus usually shifts to seminars, usually about 40 in total, which also need to be coordinated in order for them to run smoothly.

Working together to advance the kingdom

After talking to Amanda, one thing is abundantly clear: she and the team at the AC are incredibly thoughtful about the entire planning process.

“We take a lot of things into consideration before we go to a city,” she said. “It’s not a random decision or one that’s only beneficial for the Administrative Committee. We try to be thoughtful in how we plan things out so that the time at General Assembly can be meaningful and the denomination can accomplish the work it needs to accomplish.”

When asked why she loves being a part of planning GA each year, Amanda noted the myriad of connections and friendships the event affords.

“General Assembly is always fun for me. I grew up in the PCA, and my dad’s an ordained PCA pastor. It’s fun to run into old friends or people that I’ve known throughout my life. And I’ve made a lot of new friendships and connections as well. More notably, it’s a treasured thing to observe large groups of people reconnecting with friends or family members. And, it’s always special to watch our denomination come together and worship.”

“Oftentimes, there are heavy topics, if you will, being discussed on the floor, but it’s really neat to see these men, who are leading their congregations and our denomination, come together and care so much about our the PCA to discuss the weighty things that can be brought before the General Assembly.”

“It makes a person really thankful to be in a denomination with that level of involvement and so many people who are working to advance the kingdom. I always walk away feeling like I got more out of it than I’ve put into it.”

This year, the 49th PCA General Assembly—dubbed “Purified to Proclaim”—will be held in Birmingham, AL, from June 21-24. The theme is inspired by 1 Peter 1:6-7, and the worship keynote speakers include Dr. L. Roy Taylor, Rev. Kevin DeYoung, and Rev. Elbert McGowan, Jr. Registration for the event is now open

To learn more, visit pcaga.org. To register, visit pcaga.org/register-now.

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