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Registration open for the PC(USA)’s Young Adult Advocacy Conference

Event returns this fall at Union Presbyterian Seminary’s campus in Charlotte, North Carolina

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISIVLLE ­— Planning has begun for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s next Young Adult Advocacy Conference, which is set to take place this fall on the Charlotte campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary in North Carolina.

The “Jesus and Justice” gathering on Oct. 18-20 will be the second in a series of young adult conferences that are designed to provide advocacy and leadership training to college students, seminarians and young adults in general.

The free conference, which made its debut last year in Louisville, Kentucky, “is an opportunity for young adults to experience others who are interested in justice advocacy addressing a variety of issues,” said the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, advocacy director for the PC(USA). “It is also an opportunity to learn more about the church’s long history of engagement in justice ministries” and its faith-based advocacy in Washington, D.C. and New York.

Participants in PC(USA)’s 2023 Young Adult Advocacy Conference took part in a silent march and a prayer at the steps of Old National Bank in Louisville, where a former bank employee killed five people before being fatally shot by police.(Photo by Nell Herring)

The format will be similar to last year’s in that participants will be able to participate in worship, workshops and panel discussions and to hear keynote addresses each day. Also, “there will be opportunities for them to hear from other young adults on their advocacy engagement as well as network with others around the country,” said Hawkins, who oversees the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW) and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations (PMUN).

Anticipated topics include racial justice, poverty, hunger and homelessness, LGBTQIA+ rights, gender justice and human trafficking, embodied faith and movement as well as opportunities for artistic expression.

Young people have shown that activism is important to them and taken part in movements to tackle some of the nation’s most onerous topics, including racism, gun violence and police brutality as well as international issues, such as climate change.

“In recent years, we have seen young people raise their voices in the public sphere on issues that matter to them because they have seen how it directly affects them,” said Ivy Lopedito, a mission associate for OPW. “It takes great courage to stand up for what you believe in, call out the wrong and fight for change for the most vulnerable and for our planet and young people are not afraid to do it.”

Last year’s conference at PC(USA)’s headquarters attracted young people from the Louisville area and throughout Kentucky but also from more distant states, such as Iowa.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins will be among the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders teaching 2024 conference participants about advocacy. (Contributed photo)

“The response to the first conference in Louisville was tremendous,” Hawkins said. “The verbal feedback and (feedback) from the evaluation form was overwhelmingly positive. Several expressed excitement over the workshops and engagement with young adults that they did not know. Several expressed a desire to come to Charlotte.”

Zachary Riedemann, a student from Iowa State University with an interest in LGBTQIA+ activism, traveled nine hours to get to the Louisville conference last year. “I originally come from a small town of about 99 people, and so hearing people’s stories about living in a bigger city is new to me, and it’s really eye-opening to see what I grew up with versus what others grew up with and then to be able to stand here and listen … is making me a better human being,” he said during the conference.

The city of Charlotte was chosen as the site of this year’s conference because of its concentration of Presbyterians, many of whom are African American. Hawkins is a member of the Presbytery of New Hope, which stretches from Raleigh-Durham east to the Atlantic Ocean. He served on the seminary’s Board of Trustees for nine years.

“OPW invites young people from different backgrounds and lived experiences to join us in this vital work as we learn, grow and make new connections” at the conference, Lopedito said.

Since it will be a regional conference, housing will not be provided, but OPW hopes that participants will ride together from Charlotte and surrounding areas.

For more information about the conference, including how to register, go to the conference website, or you can go directly to the registration form.

The Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations are part of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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