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The PC(USA)’s Young Adult Advocacy Conference is coming to Louisville this fall

Participants will learn how to put their faith into action

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is inviting college students and seminarians who are interested in learning effective ways to stand up for causes they believe in to take part in its new Young Adult Advocacy Conference this fall in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Jesus & Justice Advocacy Conference will be Oct. 20-22 at the Presbyterian Center, near Waterfront Park, and will be replicated across the country over the next few years. The first one is mainly intended for people who live in the Louisville-Southern Indiana area or within a short drive, but there also will be ways to participate in some sessions remotely.

“A primary goal is to connect with young adults who are interested in justice advocacy, especially those who want to engage from a faith perspective,” said the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, who leads the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. “There are those who want to do more, to make a difference, but are unsure how to begin and the intricacies of networking and coalition building.”

The conference is free and open to people of any faith. A highlight of the event will be attending afternoon workshops on how to do advocacy in church, school, local communities and around the globe. There also will be a panel discussion featuring young adults, as well as opportunities to worship and to participate in an action around an issue of importance in the Louisville area. Visit the conference website by going here.

Participants will leave the conference with “the ability to organize in his or her local community around a particular justice issue,” Hawkins said. “They will be encouraged to focus on those that capture their attention and that they feel passionately about, such as gun violence and climate change. They will be instructed to follow their heart as it informs their advocacy.”

Louisville is a natural fit for the first conference because it’s where PC(USA)’s newly renovated national headquarters is located and has been the focus of social justice actions in the past.

“There are several factors that played a role in selecting Louisville,” Hawkins said. “The death of Breonna Taylor and the relationship between police and communities of color has called for conversations on police reform and (the need) to eliminate misconduct that results in death. The PC(USA) has been vocal in calling for reform and an advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Participants will hear from Presbyterian Mission Agency staff, including some who took part in the PC(USA) Week of Action in 2020 that included a Justice Rally and March, as well as others involved in activism. More details will be released closer to the date of the conference.

The church believes that advocacy is “vital for living a spiritual and holistic life,” Hawkins explained. Participants in the conference will learn about “advocacy as a manifestation of Christian discipleship. It is an extension of our commitment to the goals of Matthew 25 to eradicate systemic poverty and eliminate structural racism.”

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins was among those taking a stand against gun violence at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. (Photo courtesy of Jimmie Hawkins)

Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, UKirk and other entities are helping to spread the word about the new conference, which will move to Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2024 and Michigan State University in East Lansing in 2025, to make it accessible to young people in various parts of the country.

Hawkins, who takes part in many protests and other social justice actions in the Washington, D.C. area where OPW is based, has been encouraged in recent years by how interested young people are in making their voices heard on important issues.

“Every march I have participated in, the vast majority chanting and demanding change are young adults,” he said. “The disconnect is that they don’t realize that the church is just as committed to a more just society. We want to support them as a resource.”

To register, go here. To view videos about the conference, go here.

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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