Longtime friends and colleagues of the 14 former staff members of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA)—retiring or leaving as a result of the OGA’s recently-announced restructuring—gathered on March 19 to share laughter, tears, and prayers of thanksgiving for their faithful service to the church.

The Committee on the Office of the General Assembly (COGA)—at its March 18–20 meeting— hosted a festive luncheon in the cafeteria of the Presbyterian Center, at which each former employee present for the occasion was honored with a gift and words of tribute from PC(USA) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons.

“It has been our privilege to work with these folks and to eat their casseroles and their donuts, which is what we do,” Parsons said playfully in his introduction to the employees being honored. “We thank them for their hard work, their unique gifts, and their service to the church.”

Joyce Lieberman (left), associate for Constitutional Interpretation for the OGA, congratulates with Jewel McRae

Joyce Lieberman (left), associate for Constitutional Interpretation for the OGA, with Jewel McRae —Photo by Molly Williams

The lunch concluded with a song, “Leaving, But Forever in Our Heart,” written for the occasion and played by the Reverend Sharon Youngs, former OGA communications coordinator, and was followed by a worship service and reception to celebrate all departing OGA staff, both absent and present. Those departing staff who attended the day’s events were:

  • Trish Brown; Church Leadership Connection (CLC) Consultant;
  • Kerry Clements; Director of Communication, Development and Technology;
  • Joanne Green; Senior Administrative Assistant, Constitutional Services;
  • Fred Heuser; Director, Presbyterian Historical Society;
  • Jewel McRae; Associate for CLC Administration;
  • Margaret Merrick; OGA Records Manager, Department of History;
  • Marcia Myers; Director, Vocation Office;
  • Dosie Powell; Senior Administrative Assistant, Vocation Office.

Linda Valentine (left), executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and ex-officio COGA member, with Marcia Myers —Photo by Molly Williams

“It was very meaningful to conclude my service as director of Vocation with worship in the chapel led by members of COGA and the Stated Clerk, alongside colleagues with whom I had shared in ministry,” said Marcia Myers. Before accepting her call in 1998 to serve the office of Vocation—formerly a shared ministry of OGA and the Presbyterian Mission Agency prior to the OGA’s reorganization earlier this month—Myers served for 20 years in West Virginia as pastor, co-pastor, and as presbytery staff.

“How appropriate that Gradye focused on vocation in his reflection on Colossians 3:12-18,” she said. “As we move on to new phases of our calling, we were held up in prayer and released into God's care and guidance.”

The celebration of ministry service also included a poignant, embodied prayer led by the Reverend Marcia Mount Shoop, COGA’s vice moderator, and a litany of thanksgiving for faithful service spoken by COGA moderator Vincent Thomas.

Jim Wilson (left), COGA member, with Kerry Clements

Jim Wilson (left), COGA member, with Kerry Clements —Photo by Molly Williams

“We thank these dedicated servants for their witness to the faith and the work of their hands,” Thomas said.

During the second session of the COGA meeting, held earlier that morning, Fred Heuser—retiring executive director of the Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS)—expressed his gratitude to both his OGA and COGA colleagues.

“It has been a privilege for me to serve for the past 31 years and I shall truly miss the relationships that have been established over that time,” Heuser said. “You all have made the church a better place with the service you have provided. You have also made PHS a better place.”