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'Bring on the Presbyterians! We’re ready!'

Local planning for Assembly was regional team effort; included hundreds of volunteers

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A photo of people standing in line at booths

Participants register for the 219th General Assembly at the Minneapolis Convention Center. —By Danny Bolin


There may be times when getting three presbyteries and a synod to work together is a challenge – especially when the task is as complex as hosting a General Assembly.

But the Committee on Local Arrangements (COLA) for the 219th General Assembly (2010) has made it look easy.

“We wanted this to be an all-Minnesota Assembly because of the rich history and culture here to be shared with the larger church,” said Sandra Hawley, co-chair of COLA. She and Manley Olson, the other co-chair, are from the Presbytery of Twin Cities Area (TCA), the official host presbytery for this year’s Assembly. “We also know there are few other hosting locations in the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, and we wanted to give as much of the assembly experience to as many as possible in this synod.”

The Presbytery of Minnesota Valleys and the Presbytery of Northern Waters were invited by TCA to help host the biennial event. Joining Hawley and Olson as COLA leaders were Rallah Madison (Minnesota Valleys) and Donetta Wickstrom (Northern Waters). Also listed as a partner host on the COLA website ( is the Synod of Lakes and Prairies.

The COLA’s tasks are many, including making parking arrangements, planning opening worship, arranging the Moderator’s reception and establishing local press relations. Perhaps most important of all, COLA anchors the work of providing hospitality to thousands of visitors to Minneapolis.

These tasks require volunteers – hundreds of volunteers.

One of the legacies of this assembly will be the opportunity for youth groups to officially volunteer, bringing “incredible energy and enthusiasm to their duties,” Hawley said.

The COLA has been in existence for nearly four years, beginning well before the 218th General Assembly (2008) in San Jose, Calif. “Over the last four years we have dealt with all the joys and sorrows of life: birth, death, illness, accidents and job loss,” Olson noted.

“We are a diverse group geographically,” Madison said, “but we found that a broad base produced the greatest ideas.”

The committee faced challenges into the final weeks of preparation.

“The biggest challenge has been getting enough volunteers – not easy on a Fourth of July week in Minnesota!” Madison said. Even so, it is anticipated that Presbyterians will fill the main hall of the Minneapolis Convention Center for opening worship that morning.

And Hawley summed it up: “We have had amazing people involved at all levels of the planning process, using their energy, intelligence, imagination and love in the very best sense of those words. They have done amazing work.

“So bring on the Presbyterians! We’re ready!”