A letter from Doug Baker in Northern Ireland
Dear PC(USA) supporting congregations and individuals,
For the past six weeks or so Elaine and I have been heavily involved in making preparations for the new team of Young Adult Volunteers serving in Northern Ireland, then in their orientation once they arrived, and then in the time of settling into their placements here.
Now that there is something of a pause in this flurry of activity I want to share with you about this excellent group of Young Adult Volunteers and ask you to keep them in your prayers as they continue to settle in and begin to contribute in their respective congregations and community ministries.
All eight of this year’s group, listed below along with their placements, are maintaining blogs about their experience here, which you can follow here.
As well as keeping this group—and the YAVs serving around the United States and the world in other sites—in your prayers, please think who you should be considering encouraging to apply as a volunteer through this program of PC(USA) for next year.
Application information can be found online and applications need to be filed by early February for the 2012-13 year.
Grace and Peace,
This is the 18th year for the PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer Program in Northern Ireland. A total of 101 volunteers have served in the past.
Volunteers work with a variety of urban church and community projects offering a range of activities for the very young to the elderly: Parent/Toddler Groups, After-School Clubs, Tutoring, Computer Classes, Women’s Groups, Advice Centres, Youth Clubs, Senior Citizen’s Lunches, informal worship opportunities, Drop-in Centres, opportunities to meet with those from “the other side,” recreation…. and the list goes on and on. In the congregations they assist with youth ministry—leading youth fellowships, Sunday morning Christian education/Sunday school activities, and with uniform organizations and drop-in times for youth midweek. Some also lead Bible study, assist in worship, or engage in pastoral visiting. There are plenty of possibilities for volunteers to match their particular skills and interests to the particular needs of their placement site—as well as having to develop new skills to tackle unexpected challenges! The YAVs this year and their placements are as follows:
1. Elizabeth Wall (Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton, N.J.) is serving with Regent Street Presbyterian Church and The LINK Family and Community Centre in Newtownards—10 miles east of Belfast. The LINK connects local churches and the local community through a drop-in centre and programs for young people and adults from low-income areas of the town. At Regent Street the work is with the youth fellowship and Sunday morning Christian education programs and assisting with some worship and pastoral duties, including with senior citizens.
2. Zoe VanDyke (House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, Minn.) is serving with Glengormley Presbyterian Church, working with youth from the congregation and the community in a mixed area of north Belfast and assisting with a parents and preschool group, art club and other programs. Several days each week will be with The Vine Community and Advice Centre in a low-income interface area in North Belfast. The Vine provides a comprehensive range of community services to all age groups including after-school tutoring/study support, youth clubs, women’s groups, a senior citizen’s lunch club, an advice centre for those needing help filling in forms, and JAFFA (Jesus A Friend For All), a Christian education outreach for children.
3. Patrick Harley (First Presbyterian Church, Greeneville, Tenn.) is serving with Dundonald Methodist Church, located in a large—predominantly Loyalist—housing estate in East Belfast involved in providing children’s, youth and other outreach to this area of social need through the Dundonald Family and Community Initiative, some of whose activities are shared with nearby Church of Ireland and Presbyterian congregations or involve work with local schools (www.dundonaldmethodist.org). Two of the challenges/opportunities in this placement are: using sport and drumming to connect with males—currently underserved and underrepresented— and helping the congregation connect with a growing Filipino population.
4. Erin Jezek (First Presbyterian Church, Temple, Texas) is serving with East Belfast Mission (Methodist Church in Ireland) on the largely "Loyalist" Newtownards Road in inner East Belfast. The role involves relating to youth in the congregation and surrounding community. There will also be opportunities to work with local schools, host a senior citizens friendship circle, assist in worship—and explore other ways EBM works, including a social economy project, café, and cross-community work with a nearby Nationalist district.
5. Christina Tammen (Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church, Louisville, Ky.) is serving with Fortwilliam and Macrory Presbyterian Church in a mixed part of North Belfast. This involves leading the Youth Fellowship and Sunday morning youth class and support for young people in the congregation and nearby youth club. Fortwilliam and Macrory is a merger of two congregations with very different histories and social/economic contexts, offering quite a range of challenges. Some time is also spent hosting (serving meals, tea/coffee, etc.) groups at the nearby WAVE Trauma Centre, which provides a range of services for those bereaved, injured or traumatized by events during “the Troubles”.
6. Kendra Heimbuck (First Presbyterian Church, Laramie, Wyo.) is serving with Whitehouse Presbyterian Church, situated between areas identified with Loyalist and Republican factions in North Belfast. Whitehouse engages in cross-community work with those areas. Her role will include youth ministry (including Youth Fellowship, leadership of Boy’s/Girl’s Brigade groups and plenty of recreation), contact with a cross-community project for older adults, assisting with worship and pastoral visiting, and linking with schools in the area.
7. Karl Heimbuck (First Presbyterian Church, Laramie, Wyo.) is developing a new YAV link with Woodvale Methodist Church off the Shankill Road in West Belfast. Woodvale is a small, largely older congregation going through a time of revitalisation. They have a drum kit, but no drummer. Cue Karl! He will also have opportunities to engage in some outreach with at-risk youth and support work in local schools. And with The 174 Trust, operating a community and youth centre in a low-income Nationalist area of north Belfast. This work includes supervising soccer sessions (organized jointly with youth from the Lower Shankill area), assisting with an after-school club, and potentially work with a joint club for the physically handicapped and able-bodied (PHAB).
8. Ellison Cavedo (First Presbyterian Church, Anderson, S.C.) is serving with Garnerville Presbyterian Church, situated at the interface of middle-class private housing and a low-income housing estate in East Belfast. He will be helping to develop their youth ministry, engage in building relationships with the nearby predominantly Loyalist housing estate, and linking with activities at the local primary school and community centre. Opportunities also exist to work with a parent and preschool group and senior citizens and to develop arts/crafts and drama opportunities through the church, local school and community centre.