PWG-funded summer intern reflects on her experience at the 221st General Assembly (2014)
By Rachel Shussett
Being a cradle Presbyterian, I have been to my fair share of General Assemblies. My father is a Presbyterian pastor, now executive presbyter, and my mom is always heavily involved with whichever church the family is attending, so going to GA has always served as our vacation for the summer.
However, this GA was remarkably different from any that I have attended previously.
When I was younger, I served as an observer: I ran freely in the exhibit hall, getting lots of Frisbees, pens, highlighters, and laughs. At the 2012 General Assembly in Pittsburgh, I served as a Young Adult Advisory Delegate, helping to make major decisions for the church within the Immigration Committee and plenary.
But this year, as one of the reporters on the staff of the Communication Center, I wrote articles for the General Assembly newspaper, which was published daily for those attending the Assembly in Detroit. The articles were also published online for those tracking the events from afar.
This GA was a whirlwind experience for me. I was all over the place, serving multiple purposes at the same time, as I ran around COBO, the convention center of Detroit.
Initially, my main duty was to write for the daily newspaper. I wrote stories about breakfasts, worship services, the translation and interpreter teams, and the number of people attending GA virtually this year. It was quite the gig and resulted in my meeting a lot of really cool people who have important roles both within the PC(USA) and other denominations.
My other role was to handle social media for Presbyterian Today. On a normal day, this would mean posting a link or picture or two on the Facebook and Twitter accounts and maybe posting a relevant picture on Instagram.
At GA, this drastically changed. I was doing live posting from all three accounts, particularly during plenary sessions, to keep those following the action from afar in the loop. Sometimes it meant posting a quote from the sermon at a daily worship service, and other times it meant reporting the results of an important vote in plenary session.
I learned a lot in the 10 days that I spent in Detroit. Prior to GA, I had never written for a daily newspaper–talk about riding by the seat of your pants! It was a crazy adrenaline rush, getting my assignments for the day and then running around chasing the stories before sitting down and writing the actual text in time for deadline. I was forced to really pay attention to the proceedings so that all the information being posted was correct. The work was hard, but so worthwhile.
Overall, I can definitely say that working in the Communication Center at GA 221 (or maybe I should say #GA221) was probably the best way to experience GA. I loved being able to experience so many aspects of the meeting, from the exhibit hall, worship, meals, committees, and plenary.
I am so blessed to be having this opportunity–not only to serve at General Assembly but to be able to work in communications with the Presbyterian Mission Agency as an intern for the summer. Stay tuned for more tales of the Floor 5 Intern!
Editor’s note: Rachel Shussett is the recipient of a Jameson-Hines Scholarship from the Presbyterian Writers Guild. Her General Assembly assignment was part of her work as summer intern for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Communication in Louisville, where she is dividing her time between Presbyterian News Service, Presbyterians Today, and the
Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study.
This fall Shussett will be a junior at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. She is majoring in public relations and minoring in journalism.