Having attended General Assemblies of the PCUSA since I was 10 years old, they have become family affairs for me and my family. I often see them as a family reunion, celebrating the connectionalism that we hold so highly in our words and deeds as a church. Now that I am a father and on this day in which we celebrate fathers I have been frustrated with the lack of support and care for families and especially children for those attending the General Assembly. Two years ago, as the church gathered in Pittsburgh and my wife and I began to plan our trip to observe and celebrate our family, church and biological. We were met with hurdle after hurdle and flat out disdain for the desire to share the expereince of General Assembly with our two small children. I am a lucky one. My mother and father, love General Assembly and love their grandkids, so we had support. We didn't think we were the only pastors or observers that would be interested in attending our church's most important meeting but were prohibited only be the lack of options for our children to participate in so they can come to know and love the wider church in the same way they are loved and known by their local church.
To that end, as a commissioner from Homestead Presbytery, I have entered a simple Commissioner Resolution to the 221 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) directed the Office of the General Assembly to provide child friendly and child care options during our biennial meetings. Below is the text of that resolution.
Recommend that the 221st General Assembly (2014) 1. Direct the Office of the General Assembly to ensure that childcare and child-friendly spaces are provided at all General Assembly meetings, following models used for other Presbyterian meetings, such as Presbyterian Women’s Gatherings and Big Tent.
Rationale: The PCUSA continues to emphasize the importance of the involvement of young adult members. In order to support the participation of many of these Presbyterians, childcare must be provided.
Big Tent http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/big-tent/children-and-youth-programs/
Young Clergy Women’s Project http://youngclergywomen.org/conference/childcare/
Conference Childcare http://conferencechildcare.com/
Rev. Greg Bolt TEC Homestead Presbytery
Joseph Morrow REC Chicago Presbytery
I continually look to the words of my beloved wife and fellow pastor...
I continue to believe that we can do better.
May it be so.
Rev. Greg Bolt (TEC Homestead Presbytery)
PS If you want to know a little more about the history of this conversation you can catch up here.
UPDATE: Below is a copy of the text I read to the General Assembly Procedures Committee (#3) regarding our childcare resolution.
My wife and I are both pastors, we have two small children, we are active in the life of the wider church. We love coming to GA. When we began to prepare to come to the 220th GA we were shocked to find that there were no options for childcare or even child friendly options for our children. After repeated contact and problem solving with members of the OGA we were rebuffed and told that the barriers were too great to provide a welcoming space for families and those with children.
The intent of this resolution is to provide a strong message of support for our members with children and for whom the lack of childcare and child friendly activities provide a barrier to come to know and love this church that has nurtured both my wife and I.
We are proposing three things:
1. Available onsite childcare from 7:00 AM-5:00 PM in Two blocks of time during the business days of General Assembly. 7 AM-12 Noon and 1 PM-5 PM for parents and guardians to sign up and drop off their children allowing them to participate in the life of the larger church. This service would be a pay service $40/day is a conference norm. This would allow for families like mine to have a commissioner do their work, a pastor connect with the larger church, and a parent to do their job.
2. A space during worship specifically for children, there are many creative people in our churches that can make this a life giving and worshipful place allowing our youngest members to participate in the joy of GA worship.
3. At the very least provide a room with comfortable chairs, low light, changing tables, and possibly sleeping mats for nursing mothers and for caregivers to find a place for their child to rest and relax.
I will be here if you have any questions.
Thank you for your time.