Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Nashville Young Adult Volunteer site celebrates 15 years of ministry

Temporary hiatus allows program to regroup, refocus

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

Attendees at the service and program celebrating 15 years of the Nashville Epiphany Project YAV site. (Photo by Linda Carter)

Attendees at the service and program celebrating 15 years of the Nashville Epiphany Project YAV site. (Photo by Linda Carter)

LOUISVILLE – Dozens of church members, presbytery representatives, partner agencies, current Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) and program alumni were on hand June 26 as the Nashville YAV site celebrated 15 years of service to the community. The program will end its current incarnation this year and plans to regroup before relaunching in 1-2 years.

Formed as the Nashville Epiphany Project (NEP) in 2000, the service organization has been housed at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee as it partnered with local nonprofit groups, the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee and other churches. Originally envisioned as a second-year site for YAVs returning from a year out of the country, the program adapted as community needs and the volunteer base changed.

“I am glad you are here today to help celebrate 15 years of the Nashville Epiphany Project—the 55 young adults, the five site coordinators, the nine partner churches, the seven partner agencies, and uncountable others who have nurtured and shaped this program,” said Susan Brantley, site coordinator from 2004 to 2011.

“NEP has morphed over the years, adjusting to the needs of young adults and the needs in our community,” she said “And it is going through another transformation now, as the NEP Strategic Planning Committee explores next steps—expanding it out of Second Presbyterian Church.”

Richard Williams, National YAV coordinator at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said a constant component of the Nashville program has been vocational discernment provided by Janet Salyer, a member of the presbytery and spiritual director at Callings Nashville. “We hope we can capture the great work they’ve started and replicate this type of vocational discernment as part of every YAV’s experience,” he said.

“About half decided to attend seminary—some working in churches, universities or at a national level; others decided on not-for-profit work, physical therapy, social work, school counseling, nursing, teaching, engineering, law and education,” said Brantley of the YAV alumni. “One became a small business owner and another is an author. They all are making wonderful contributions to our world.”

“From the five of us in our class (2012), four of us went to seminary and all have different trajectories,” said Beth Olker, field staff for Presbyterian College Women and Young Women’s Ministries, M.Div. graduate of Union Presbyterian Seminary, current MFT student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and an alumna of the Nashville site. “Janet aided my decision to get an M.Div. in pursuit of Christian education training and informed my integration of clinical therapy work with a parish and pastoral calling.”

Since the Young Adult Volunteer program started in 1993 as a ministry of the PC(USA), over 1,600 alumni have served as YAVs around the world. In 2016-17 the program operated 22 sites—16 domestic and six international, though Williams noted the number and geographic distribution of sites varies from year to year.

“While we will miss sending a group of YAVs to Nashville as we have for the past 15 years, we are deeply thankful for their rich contribution to the development of so many young adults, and the communities to which they are called,” said Williams. “Our Nashville site has always placed great emphasis on a key aspect of the YAV experience: vocational discernment. The fruits of that work are rippling throughout our church and world today. And of course, I’m a part of our Nashville site’s work, having served there in its first year, way back in 2001. Thanks be to God for their faithful service.”

“It’s been a great 15 years at Second [Presbyterian Church], but it’s time to work differently,” said Brantley. “I’m very hopeful about what it’s going to be, about who’s going to be part of the program—young adults, board members, coordinators. It can grow and be bigger with representation from the larger church.

“Mostly, I’m so proud of the 15 years of YAVs and how they are leading in this community and around the church.”


You can support the work of the Young Adult Volunteer program by donating via this link.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.