The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Big Tent a Big Success

More than 1750 gather to be inspired and equipped for ministry

Big Tent LogoCall it a “denominational gathering” or “a big, Presbyterian family reunion.” Whatever you call it, the Big Tent was that – and more. The second biennial Big Tent took place June 30 – July 3, 2011 in Indianapolis. Billed as a celebration of ministry and mission, the event was diverse and intergenerational, and offered participants the opportunity to worship together, learn together and experience the rich fellowship of the broader church. Kerry Rice, manager of the General Assembly meeting service remarked, “You won’t get a chance to see as many parts of the church in one place as you will at Big Tent.”

Conferences in the Tent

This year nine church-related groups that typically hold annual or biennial conferences chose to meet during the event.

  • Clergywomen’s Leadership Institute/Young Women’s Leadership Development
  • Evangelism and Church Growth Conference
  • Healthy Ministry Conference
  • National Elders Conference
  • National Multicultural Church Conference
  • Peacemaking Conference
  • Presbyterian Communicators Network National Conference
  • Racial Ethnic and Immigrants Convocation
  • World Mission Matters

The Big Tent drew many participants from Chicago Presbytery. Dawn Koyzis, member of Glen Ellyn First was a first-timer. She was there to network with the Louisville Communications and Funds Development staff, with whom she’s worked on a number of contract projects. When asked what the best part of Big Tent was, Dawn had some difficulty pinning one thing down. “It was all good! Getting to know new people, sharing insights and ideas is always exciting. It was great to experience the exhibit hall, to be able to take workshops I can use back home in my church. And it was heartening to see all the youth programs filled with the next generation of Presbyterians! But I suppose the worship was a highlight for me. At a time when the church is praying for direction and guidance, the messages were hopeful and very meaningful.”


The Multicultural Conference at Big Tent featured Korean dancers. Photo by Danny Bolin.

The Multicultural Conference at Big Tent featured Korean dancers. Photo by Danny Bolin.

From Success to Significance

The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, director of public witness for the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Washington Office preached at the closing worship on Saturday evening. His message was entitled “Moving from success to significance.”

“Truly, this has been a blessed event,” he said. “A time when we can declare the Presbyterian Church is alive and well. And now we are being moved to return to our places and to do greater things.

“Let’s consider moving from success to significance,” Nelson said. “We are at an in-between time,” he said.

“We have a choice. We can live into the mystery of God’s desire for us and what we ought to become. . . . We used to have numbers. We used to have clout. We used to have collection baskets overflowing. . . . We used to be successful, but like the exilic people in the text today (Isaiah 43:14-21), God is calling ourselves back.

“We must understand that identity and imagination must lead our transformation,” he said. “At the core of our challenge is making a new identity…our identity is discovering who we are, not who we used to be.”


is published five times a year by the Presbytery Council’s Communications WorkGroup of the Presbytery of Chicago, the regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church in Lake, Cook, and DuPage Counties.

Robert C. Reynolds Executive Editor
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Next Issue: November 2011 Deadline for copy: Oct. 3, 2011
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