Our Presbyterian UN representative, Joel Hanisek, with whom I have just spent time in New York City, had shared with me that this week in the month of September marks a true milestone. We are now at the midpoint to 2015, the year in which the United Nations, governments of the world, and civil society have challenged us to reach eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS to providing universal primary education. These MDGs have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. The United Nations 63rd General Assembly, which convened in New York last week brought renewed attention and commitments to reaching these goals. On Monday night, a few hundred people gathered in the chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations for a service to call forth the urgency of addressing the issues of poverty, such as child and maternal health, that the Millennium Development Goals lift up. The Church Center building, where our own Presbyterian UN Office and many partner ecumenical and interfaith organizations are located, sits just across the street from UN Headquarters. It was surrounded by a buzz of diplomatic pomp and security that included street closures and barricades as well as the ubiquitous presence of cars with dark windows and guards with earphones who lined the sidewalks. In the midst of all this, the chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations was filled with song, candles, prayers and members of the faith, diplomatic, and NGO community at the UN who gathered to mark the importance of the MDGs and manifest their commitment to the work of making them happen. A banner with the words, "MDGs: Partners for Justice - We Said It. Let's Do it," was prominently displayed on the outside of the Church Center as challenge and encouragement to all the many leaders who passed through the halls and meeting rooms of the United Nations this past week. This service, the attention and work on the MDGs, and our continued presence at the UN are all ways that PC(USA) continues to bear witness in the midst of the community of nations to Christ’s call to reach out and serve the least among us.
I had been attending the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA meeting uptown at the Interchurch Center, which, too, houses many denominational and religious organization offices at 475 Riverside Drive. Discussing, deliberating and discerning issues of immigration, interfaith relations, eco-justice and Christian presence in the Middle East with representatives of Methodist, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, African Methodist Baptist, American Baptist, Syrian and Greek Orthodox and other churches is illuminating, as various voices coming from different traditions and experiences provide unique insights.
My brief yet profound sojourn in New York has given me a wealth of information and a ray of Christ’s hope to carry with me to the meetings of our Middle Governing Bodies and General Assembly Council at the Snowbird Conference Center in Utah throughout the weekend and into the coming week.