Midway through the June 14-21 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly here, about 30 people gathered for an emotional dinner in one of the convention center’s back rooms.
They were members and friends of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) — the body that produced the largest number of reports to the General Assembly (eight), plus numerous “Advice & Counsel” memoranda on social witness-related matters ― gathered to say thank you to Bonnie Hoff, a Southern Baptist woman who had worked for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for almost 21 years as ACSWP’s administrative assistant.
Her job was eliminated this spring as part of budget cuts at the Presbyterian Center.
Hoff ― who like many PC(USA) support staff is not Presbyterian, yet serves the church with great dedication ― was accompanied by her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, who had come with her to see one last General Assembly.
Hoff’s service had helped her son become a church-based graphic artist and her daughter become a professor of mission at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary in northern California. Hoff herself earned her B.A. going to night school over many years.
Normally Hoff would have made the arrangements for a smaller dinner recognizing ACSWP members completing their service and perhaps welcoming newly elected members. In this case, that was also part of the dinner: Gloria Albrecht, an ethics professor, and Raafat Zaki, a synod executive, were finishing their terms. Two new members, Noelle Royer, an employee of Amazon, and Linda Eastwood, a scientist currently serving as adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary, were welcomed to the committee.
Normally, too, the mid-Assembly ACSWP dinner would also assess how its reports were being received. Keeping reports, speakers and volunteers in order was another task that Hoff always performed for the committee.
But this dinner was for her.
In addition to ACSWP members, Sara Lisherness, director of Compassion, Peace, and Justice Ministries (CPJ) conveyed thanks on behalf of the Presbyterian Mission Agency as a whole. William Somplatsky-Jarman of Mission Responsibility Through Investment and Vernon Broyles from the Office of the General Assembly also expressed their appreciation for Bonnie’s work.
Patrick Heery, editor of Presbyterians Today and former managing editor of Unbound, thanked his former colleague, as did Chris Iosso, ACSWP coordinator, noting how much he and his predecessors were indebted to Hoff for all her years of caring for the committee and for the PC(USA).
Hoff personifies joy in serving the church and the willingness to do much of the unsung work that enables the church’s witness. That evening was a time for one good chorus to sing of that work behind the pages and of the friendships and dedication between the lines.
This story was compiled from accounts furnished by the staff and co-chairs of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.